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Anaesthesia. 2015 Apr;70(4):416-20. doi: 10.1111/anae.12924. Epub 2014 Nov 5.

The effect of coughing at extubation on oxygenation in the post-anaesthesia care unit.

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St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK.


We prospectively studied 84 patients to investigate whether there is a relationship between coughing during emergence and tracheal extubation, and impaired oxygenation in the post-anaesthesia care unit. Our primary outcome measure was a change in the alveolar-arterial oxygen partial pressure gradient ((A-a)DO2 ) between time A (during general anaesthesia) and time B (1 h after extubation). Patients demonstrated a worsening of oxygenation with mean (SD) (A-a)DO2 increasing from 7.5 (5.2) kPa at time A to 13.9 (4.2) kPa at time B (p < 0.01). An overall linear regression model was not predictive for the observed change (adjusted R(2) = 0.01, p = 0.31) and nor were any of the individual predictors studied, including subjective cough score (p = 0.33), number of coughs (p = 0.95) and duration of coughing (p = 0.39). Despite the abnormal cough that occurs while tracheally intubated, we have been unable to demonstrate that coughing at extubation is associated with impaired oxygenation in the immediate postoperative period.

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