Background: The initial findings from the Pediatric Perioperative Cardiac Arrest (POCA) Registry (1994-1997) revealed that medication-related causes, often cardiovascular depression from halothane, were the most common. Changes in pediatric anesthesia practice may have altered the causes of cardiac arrest in anesthetized children.
Methods: Nearly 80 North American institutions that provide anesthesia for children voluntarily enrolled in the Pediatric Perioperative Cardiac Arrest Registry. A standardized data form for each perioperative cardiac arrest in children </=18 yr of age was submitted anonymously. We analyzed causes of anesthesia-related cardiac arrests and related factors in 1998-2004.
Results: From 1998 to 2004, 193 arrests (49%) were related to anesthesia. Medication-related arrests accounted for 18% of all arrests, compared with 37% from 1994 to 1997 (P < 0.05). Cardiovascular causes of cardiac arrest were the most common (41% of all arrests), with hypovolemia from blood loss and hyperkalemia from transfusion of stored blood the most common identifiable cardiovascular causes. Among respiratory causes of arrest (27%), airway obstruction from laryngospasm was the most common cause. Vascular injury incurred during placement of central venous catheters was the most common equipment-related cause of arrest. The cause of arrest varied by phase of anesthesia care (P < 0.01). Cardiovascular and respiratory causes occurred most commonly in the surgical and postsurgical phases, respectively.
Conclusions: A reduction in the proportion of arrests related to cardiovascular depression due to halothane may be related to the declining use of halothane in pediatric anesthetic practice. The incidence of the most common remaining causes of arrest in each category may be reduced through preventive measures.