Background: Intraoperative hypotension (IOH) is a common side effect of general anesthesia and has been reported to be associated with adverse perioperative outcomes. These associations were found using different definitions for IOH. It is unknown whether the incidences of IOH found with those different definitions are comparable. The authors aimed to describe the relation between the chosen definition and incidence of IOH.
Methods: First, a systematic literature search was performed to identify recent definitions of IOH that have been used in the anesthesia literature. Subsequently, these definitions were applied to a cohort of 15,509 consecutive adult patients undergoing noncardiac surgery during general anesthesia. The incidence of IOH according to the different threshold values was calculated, and the effect of a defined minimal duration of a hypotensive episode was studied.
Results: Many different definitions of IOH were found. When applied to a cohort of patients, these different definitions resulted in different IOH incidences. Any episode of systolic blood pressure below 80 mmHg was found in 41% of the patients, whereas 93% of the patients had at least one episode of systolic blood pressure more than 20% below baseline. Both definitions are frequently used in the literature. The relation between threshold values from the literature and IOH incidence shows an S-shaped cumulative incidence curve, with occurrence frequencies of IOH varying from 5% to 99%.
Conclusions: There is no widely accepted definition of IOH. With varying definitions, many different incidences can be reproduced. This might have implications for previously described associations between IOH and adverse outcomes.