Patients have an increased risk of death following surgery if they experience even mild postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs).
The study, which appeared online today in the journal JAMA Surgery, examined 1,202 patients who underwent abdominal, orthopedic, neurological and other procedures under general anesthesia for at least two hours.
Severe complications were rare. The most common complication was simply requiring oxygen for longer than 24 hours after the operation. That was followed by atelectasis (or portions of the lungs being partially collapsed). But even these relatively mild complications were associated with significantly increased hospital stay, admission to the ICU or mortality within the first week after surgery.
“We found that patients with one or more PPCs, even mild, had significantly increased intensive care unit admission, ICU/hospital length of stay and early postoperative mortality,” said Ana Fernandez-Bustamante, MD, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She and Marcos Francisco Vidal Melo, MD, PhD, associate professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, are the lead authors of the article.