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Acta Anaesthesiol Belg. 2013;64(1):1-13.

Pulmonary aspiration in perioperative medicine.

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Otto-von-Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany.


Perioperative aspiration into the lungs is an infrequent but potentially serious cause of anesthesia-related morbidity and mortality. It is still a leading cause of death from pulmonary complications. Aspiration occurs in approximately three per 10.000 anesthetic procedures with higher incidences in special patient populations and emergency situations. Any patient with symptoms following aspiration that last for more than two hours in the recovery room should be admitted to an intensive care unit for further observation and therapy. This article reviews incidence, morbidity and mortality of perioperative aspiration as well as risk factors and preventive measures. Among preventive measures the use of drugs designed to increase gastric pH, recent developments in supraglottic airway devices and application of rapid sequence induction with cricoid pressure are discussed. Also, international fasting guidelines and clinical management following aspiration are provided.

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