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J Clin Anesth. 1998 Mar;10(2):95-102.

Pulmonary aspiration in pediatric patients during general anesthesia: incidence and outcome.

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Department of Anesthesiology/Critical Care Medicine, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2583, USA.



To determine the incidence of, outcome of, and risk factors for anesthesia-related pulmonary aspiration in the predominantly pediatric population receiving anesthesia care.


Using a clinical concurrent quality assessment system we developed, we used data stored in a custom-designed computerized database to initiate a retrospective review. Statistical relationships were analyzed by Fisher's exact test and binary logistic regression with commercially available software.


University-affiliated pediatric hospital.


All patients receiving anesthesia (n = 50,880) between April 1, 1988, and March 31, 1993.


Aspiration occurred in 52 (0.10% or 10.2 per 10,000) of the 50,880 general anesthesia cases. Aspirate was food or gastric contents in 25 cases (0.049% or 4.9 per 10,000), blood in 13 (0.026% or 2.6 per 10,000), and unknown material in 14 (0.0275% or 2.76 per 10,000). There were no deaths attributable to aspiration. Morbidity was confined to unanticipated hospital admission (n = 12), cancellation of the surgical procedure (n = 4), and intubation, with or without ventilation (n = 15). Aspiration occurred significantly more often in patients with greater severity of underlying illness (ASA physical status III or IV) (p = 0.0015), intravenous induction (p = 0.0054), and age equal to or greater than 6.0 years and less than 11.0 years (p = 0.0029). Emergency procedures had a marginally significant increased aspiration risk (p = 0.0527).


The overall incidence of anesthesia-related aspiration in our series (0.10%) was twice that reported in studies of adults, and four times (0.25%) higher for those at highest risk (ASA physical status III or IV vs. physical status I or II). Anesthesia-related pulmonary aspiration was proven to be a rare event in this tertiary pediatric center and its consequences relatively mild. Because of the very low frequency and the lack of serious outcome after aspiration in ASA physical status I and II pediatric patients, it appears that routine prophylactic administration of histamine blockers or propulsive drugs in healthy pediatric patients is unwarranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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