Perioperative respiratory complications in patients with asthma

David O. Warner, Mark A. Warner, Roxann D. Barnes, Kenneth P. Offord, Darrell R. Schroeder, Darryl T. Gray, John W. Yunginger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with asthma are thought to be at high risk for pulmonary complications to develop during the perioperative period, and these complications may lead to serious morbidity. Existing medical records were reviewed to determine the frequency of and risk factors for perioperative pulmonary complications in a cohort of residents of Rochester, Minnesota, who had asthma and who underwent anesthesia and surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Methods: Medical records were reviewed for all residents of Rochester, Minnesota, who were initially diagnosed as having definite asthma according to strict criteria from 1 January 1964 through 31 December 1983 who subsequently had at least one surgical procedure involving a general anesthetic or central neuroaxis block at the Mayo Clinic (n = 706). Results: Bronchospasm was documented in the perioperative records of 12 patients (1.7% [exact 95% confidence interval, 0.9 to 3%]). Postoperative respiratory failure developed in one of these patients. Laryngospasm developed in two additional patients during operation. All episodes of bronchospasm and laryngospasm in the immediate perioperative period were treated successfully. No episodes of pneumothorax, pneumonia, or death in the hospital were noted. For univariate analysis, characteristics associated with complications included the recent use of antiasthmatic drugs, recent asthma symptoms, and recent therapy in a medical facility for asthma. Patients in whom complications developed were significantly older at diagnosis and at surgery. Conclusions: The frequency of perioperative bronchospasm and laryngospasm was surprisingly low in this cohort of persons with asthma. These complications did not lead to severe respiratory outcomes in most patients. The frequency of complications was increased in older patients and in those with active asthma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-467
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


  • Complications: pneumonia; postoperative; wheezing
  • Lungs: asthma; bronchi; bronchospasm; pediatric
  • Outcome: morbidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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