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Hypoventilation in the PACU is associated with hypoventilation in the surgical ward: Post-hoc analysis of a randomized clinical trial

September 22, 2023

Objective:
To evaluate the association between early postoperative hypoventilation in the last hour of the post- anesthesia care unit (PACU) stay and hypoventilation during the rest of the first 48 postoperative hours in the surgical ward.
Design: Sub-analysis of a clinical trial.
Setting: PACU and surgical wards of a single medical center.
Patients: Adults having abdominal surgery under general anesthesia.
Interventions: Monitoring with a respiratory volume monitor from admission to PACU until the earlier of 48 h after surgery or discharge.
Measurements:
The exposure was having at least one low minute-ventilation (MV) event during the last hour of PACU stay, defined as MV lower than 40% the predicted value lasting at least 1 min. The primary outcome was low MV events lasting at least 2 min during the rest of the first 48 postoperative hours, while in the surgical ward. The secondary outcome was the rate of low MV events per monitored hour.
Main results:
Data of 292 patients were analyzed, of which 20 (6.8%) patients had a low MV event in PACU. Low MV events in the surgical ward were found in 81 (28%) patients. All patients who had low MV events in PACU had events again in the ward, while 61/272 (22%) had an event in the ward but not in PACU. The incidence rate of low MV events per hour was 24 (95% CI: 13, 46) among patients having an event in the PACU, and 2 (1, 4) among those who did not.
Conclusions:
In adults recovering from abdominal surgery, events of hypoventilation during the first post- operative hour are associated with similar events during the rest of the first 48 postoperative hours, with positive predictive value approaching 100%. Sixty-one patients had ward hypoventilation that was not preceded by hypoventilation in PACU.