Even Mild Pulmonary Complications Significantly Affect Postoperative Mortality Rates

Even mild postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs) are associated with significant increases in the risk of mortality within the first week following surgery, according to recent research.

In order to further examine the effects of PPCs of various severities, researchers conducted a multicenter prospective observational study involving 1202 patients who underwent noncardiothoracic surgery with mechanical ventilation.

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Overall, at least 1 PPC occurred in 401 patients (33.4%) including the need for prolonged oxygen therapy by nasal cannula and atelectasis. Patients who experienced 1 or more PPCs, even mild, were at significantly higher risk of postoperative mortality, increased rates of intensive care unit admission, and increased hospital stay length.

“Postoperative pulmonary complications are common in patients with American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status 3, despite current protective ventilation practices,” the researchers concluded.

“Mild frequent PPCs (eg, atelectasis and prolonged oxygen therapy need) deserve increased attention and intervention for improving perioperative outcomes.”

—Michael Potts


Fernandez-Bustamante A, Frendl G, Sprung J, et al. Postoperative pulmonary complications, early mortality, and hospital stay following noncardiothoracic surgery: a multicenter study by the perioperative research network investigators [published online November 9, 2016]. JAMA Surg. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2016.4065.