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Recovery room complications waned substantially from 1990 to 2010


Complications in the recovery room decreased by 58% between 1990 and 2010, according to a study presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

In a previous study completed in the late 1980s, recovery room complications occurred in 23.7% of patients. Today, the complication rate is 9.9%, researchers reported.

“Anticipation, timely recognition and early management of medical concerns that arise in the immediate postoperative period should prevent complications,” Susan M. Dabu-Bondoc, MD, assistant professor of anesthesiology at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said in a news release. “A thorough preoperative assessment of the patient’s characteristics, judicious anesthetic planning and knowledge of the nature of the procedure remain equally valuable in reducing risks of complications in the post-anesthetic unit.”

To assess overall complication rates in the recovery room, Yale researchers reviewed more than 191,000 consecutive surgical cases of 107,671 unique patients who were treated between 1990 and 2010. This survey was compared with a smaller study completed between October 1986 and June 1989 measuring the same data.

In addition to the decrease in the rate of complications in the recovery room, the study found that the combined PACU and intraoperative complication rate decreased from 26.7% to 14.8%. Complications shifted from healthier patients (ASA Physical Status Classification System I and II) to patients with moderate to severe systemic diseases (ASA Physical Status Classification System III and IV). Additionally, the study found that women had a significantly higher complication rate of 11.4% compared with men, 9.3%.

Postoperative nausea and vomiting remained the most common complications, as they were in the previous study. All major complications dropped significantly. The study also found that general anesthesia had a higher complication rate of 13.3%, compared with 4.1% for all other anesthetics such as epidural, spinal and nerve blocks.

Study abstract:


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