Asystole during laryngoscopy of a patient with pleural and pericardial effusions: a case report

AANA J. 2008 Feb;76(1):25-7.


A 53-year-old woman presented to the operating room for surgical correction of pericardial and pleural effusions. Her history included stage IV breast cancer, well-controlled hypertension, and diverticulitis. Although her baseline blood pressure, heart rate, and respirations were normal, she was short of breath with diminished breath sounds on the left side of the lungs and required oxygen, 2 L/min via nasal cannula. The nurse anesthesia student, under the direction of the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and anesthesiologist, induced general anesthesia with etomidate, fentanyl, lidocaine, and succinylcholine. During placement of a double-lumen endotracheal tube, the patient became asystolic. The nurse anesthesia student immediately withdrew the laryngoscope, and the patient returned to normal sinus rhythm. A second attempt at laryngoscopy produced asystole as well. Again, the laryngoscope was withdrawn, and the patient returned to normal sinus rhythm. After resuming ventilation with 100% oxygen and administering atropine, 0.4 mg, the next intubation was successful, producing no untoward effects. Reintubation at the end of the case with a single lumen endotracheal tube was uneventful. The patient was transported to the intensive care unit and mechanically ventilated overnight. The next morning, she was extubated with no further anesthetic complications.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, General / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia, General / methods
  • Anesthesia, General / nursing
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / diagnosis
  • Heart Arrest / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / nursing
  • Laryngoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Laryngoscopy / nursing
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Pericardial Effusion / complications
  • Pericardial Effusion / surgery*
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / complications
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / surgery*
  • Risk Factors
  • Vagus Nerve / drug effects
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology