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Anaesthesia. 1996 Apr;51(4):324-6.

The effect of passive smoking on the incidence of airway complications in children undergoing general anaesthesia.

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Department of Anaesthesia, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland.


The aim of this study was to assess whether passive smoking affected the frequency of airway complications in children undergoing general anaesthesia. One hundred and twenty-five children undergoing general anaesthesia for elective daycase surgery were monitored for adverse respiratory events and desaturation during induction, intra-operatively and in the recovery room. Oxygen saturation was monitored throughout and a venous sample was taken for estimation of carboxyhaemoglobin levels. Parents were asked to fill in a questionnaire detailing their smoking habits. Sixty-three of the children were passive smokers with a potential daily exposure varying from 5-130 cigarettes. There was no difference in the frequency of respiratory events between passive smokers and those not exposed to cigarette smoke at induction or intra-operatively. However, in the recovery room, desaturation was significantly more common in passive smokers (p < 0.02). This was related to the cumulative number of cigarettes smoked by individuals to whom the child was exposed (p < 0.05). Neither carboxyhaemoglobin levels nor domiciliary address were predictive of desaturation. This study suggests that passive smoking contributes to postoperative arterial oxygen desaturation following general anaesthesia in children.

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