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Anesth Analg. 2015 Aug;121(2):422-9. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000792.

Predictors of Delayed Postoperative Respiratory Depression Assessed from Naloxone Administration.

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From the *Department of Anesthesiology, †Nursing Thoracic/Vascular ICU and Mayo School of Health Sciences, ‡Mayo School of Health Sciences, §Nursing Pediatric ICU and Mayo School of Health Sciences, and ∥Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.



The aim of this study was to identify patient and procedural characteristics associated with postoperative respiratory depression or sedation requiring naloxone intervention.


We identified patients who received naloxone to reverse opioid-induced respiratory depression or sedation within 48 hours after discharge from anesthetic care (transfer from the postanesthesia care unit or transfer from the operating room to postoperative areas) between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2010. Patients were matched to 2 control subjects based on age, sex, and exact type of procedure performed during the same year. A chart review was performed to identify patient, anesthetic, and surgical factors that may be associated with risk for intervention requiring naloxone. In addition, we identified all patients who developed adverse respiratory events (hypoventilation, apnea, oxyhemoglobin desaturation, pain/sedation mismatch) during phase 1 anesthesia recovery. We performed conditional logistic regression taking into account the 1:2 matched set case-control study design to assess patient and procedural characteristics associated with naloxone use.


We identified 134 naloxone administrations, 58% within 12 hours of discharge from anesthesia care, with an incidence of 1.6 per 1000 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3-1.9) anesthetics. The presence of obstructive sleep apnea (odds ratio [OR] = 2.45; 95% CI, 1.27-4.66; P = 0.008) and diagnosis of an adverse respiratory event in the postanesthesia recovery room (OR = 5.11; 95% CI, 2.32-11.27; P < 0.001) were associated with an increased risk for requiring naloxone to treat respiratory depression or sedation after discharge from anesthesia care. After discharge from anesthesia care, patients administered naloxone used a greater median dose of opioids (10 [interquartile range, 0-47.1] vs 5 [0-24.8] IV morphine equivalents, P = 0.020) and more medications with sedating side effects (n = 41 [31%] vs 24 [9%]; P < 0.001).


Obstructive sleep apnea and adverse respiratory events in the recovery room are harbingers of increased risk for respiratory depression or sedation requiring naloxone after discharge from anesthesia care. Also, patients administered naloxone received more opioids and other sedating medications after discharge from anesthetic care. Our findings suggest that these patients may benefit from more careful monitoring after being discharged from anesthesia care.

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