Recovery from anesthesia and postoperative extubation of neurosurgical patients: a review

J Neurosurg Anesthesiol. 1999 Oct;11(4):282-93. doi: 10.1097/00008506-199910000-00009.


The most feared complications after intracranial surgery are development of an intracranial hematoma and major cerebral edema. Both may result in cerebral hypoperfusion and brain injury. Arterial hypertension via catecholamine release or sympathetic stimulation and hypercapnia may be predisposing factors. Other systemic secondary insults to the brain such as hypoxia and hypotension may exacerbate neuronal injury in hypoperfused areas of the brain. Thus, the anesthetic emergence of a neurosurgical patient should include maintenance of stable respiratory and cardiovascular parameters. Minimal reaction to the endotracheal tube prevents sympathetic stimulation and increases in venous pressure. On one hand, a delayed emergence and later extubation in the intensive care unit (ICU) might be recommended to achieve better thermal and cardiovascular stability after major intracranial procedures. On the other hand, the timely diagnosis of neurosurgical complications is required to limit brain damage; the diagnosis of complications relies on rapid neurological examination after early awakening. After uncomplicated surgery, normothermic and normovolemic patients generally recover from anesthesia with minimal metabolic and hemodynamic changes. Thus, early recovery and extubation in the operating room is the preferred method when the preoperative state of consciousness is relatively normal and surgery does not involve critical brain areas or extensive manipulation. In the complicated or unstable patient, the risks of early extubation may outweigh the benefits. It is, however, often possible to perform a brief awakening of the patient without extubation to allow early neurological evaluation, followed by delayed emergence and extubation. Close hemodynamic and respiratory monitoring are mandatory in all cases. The availability of ultrashort intravenous anesthetic agents and adrenergic blocking agents has added to the flexibility in the immediate emergence period after intracranial surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia Recovery Period*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures*
  • Postoperative Complications*