Anesthesia-related cardiac arrest in children: initial findings of the Pediatric Perioperative Cardiac Arrest (POCA) Registry

Anesthesiology. 2000 Jul;93(1):6-14. doi: 10.1097/00000542-200007000-00007.


Background: The Pediatric Perioperative Cardiac Arrest (POCA) Registry was formed in 1994 in an attempt to determine the clinical factors and outcomes associated with cardiac arrest in anesthetized children.

Methods: Institutions that provide anesthesia for children are voluntarily enrolled in the POCA Registry. A representative from each institution provides annual institutional demographic information and submits anonymously a standardized data form for each cardiac arrest (defined as the need for chest compressions or as death) in anesthetized children 18 yr of age or younger. Causes and factors associated with cardiac arrest are analyzed.

Results: In the first 4 yr of the POCA Registry, 63 institutions enrolled and submitted 289 cases of cardiac arrest. Of these, 150 arrests were judged to be related to anesthesia. Cardiac arrest related to anesthesia had an incidence of 1.4 +/- 0.45 (mean +/- SD) per 10,000 instances of anesthesia and a mortality rate of 26%. Medication-related (37%) and cardiovascular (32%) causes of cardiac arrest were most common, together accounting for 69% of all arrests. Cardiovascular depression from halothane, alone or in combination with other drugs, was responsible for two thirds of all medication-related arrests. Thirty-three percent of the patients were American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status 1-2; in this group, 64% of arrests were medication-related, compared with 23% in American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status 3-5 patients (P < 0.01). Infants younger than 1 yr of age accounted for 55% of all anesthesia-related arrests. Multivariate analysis demonstrated two predictors of mortality: American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status 3-5 (odds ratio, 12.99; 95% confidence interval, 2.9-57.7), and emergency status (odds ratio, 3. 88; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-9.6).

Conclusions: Anesthesia-related cardiac arrest occurred most often in patients younger than 1 yr of age and in patients with severe underlying disease. Patients in the latter group, as well as patients having emergency surgery, were most likely to have a fatal outcome. The identification of medication-related problems as the most frequent cause of anesthesia-related cardiac arrest has important implications for preventive strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Airway Obstruction / complications
  • Anesthetics, Inhalation / adverse effects*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Halothane / adverse effects*
  • Heart Arrest / chemically induced*
  • Heart Arrest / epidemiology
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intraoperative Complications / chemically induced*
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Registries
  • Resuscitation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anesthetics, Inhalation
  • Halothane