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Anaesthesia. 2018 Jan;73 Suppl 1:25-33. doi: 10.1111/anae.14137.

Respiratory complications of anaesthesia.

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Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK.
University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.


Postoperative pulmonary complications are a major determinant of outcome for patients and consume huge resources within hospital, particularly in critical care. Prediction and anticipation of postoperative pulmonary complications are vital for patient selection and, in some cases, for informed patient consent. Being able to assess the likelihood of postoperative pulmonary complications also allows research into methods to reduce them by allowing allocation of patients to the appropriate arms of research trials. Some patients have pre-operative characteristics or belong to patient groups such as those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or obstructive sleep apnoea, where techniques and evidence-based guidance to avoid or reduce complications are becoming established. Intra-operative ventilation and the use of lung-protective ventilation may be helpful during major surgery, but studies looking at reduced tidal volumes, recruitment and levels of positive end-expiratory pressure, have this far only led to a degree of consensus in terms of tidal volume, although parameters that predispose to postoperative pulmonary complications are becoming clearer. Optimal postoperative care in terms of analgesia, positioning, physiotherapy and mobilisation is another developing area. Techniques such as continuous positive airways pressure, non-invasive ventilation and high-flow nasal humidified oxygen appear to show some benefit, but the exact roles, pressures and timings of each are currently being explored. Much remains to be researched and developed into evidence-based practice.


lung-protective ventilation; postoperative pulmonary complications; ventilation strategies

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