A systemic review of obstructive sleep apnea and its implications for anesthesiologists

Anesth Analg. 2008 Nov;107(5):1543-63. doi: 10.1213/ane.0b013e318187c83a.


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is present in a significant proportion of the population, but the majority of patients remain undiagnosed. It is crucial that anesthesiologists and surgeons recognize the increased perioperative risks associated with undiagnosed OSA. We present a systematic review of the literature on the perioperative management of surgical patients with OSA.

Methods: The scope of this review is restricted to publications in all surgical specialties and in the adult patient population. The main search key words were: "perioperative care," "sleep apnea," "obstructive sleep apnea," "perioperative risk," and "perioperative care." The databases Medline, Embase, Biological Abstract, Science Citation Index, and Healthstar were searched for relevant English language articles from 1966 to March 2007.

Results: The literature supports an increased perioperative risk in OSA patients. The American Society of Anesthesiologists guidelines support the routine screening for OSA during preoperative assessment, and methods of OSA screening are discussed in this review. This review suggests a number of perioperative management strategies to reduce surgical risk in patients with OSA. However, apart from the consensus-based American Society of Anesthesiologists guidelines, it is important to note that evidence-based recommendations are lacking in the literature.

Conclusions: This review suggests ways to screen for OSA in the preoperative setting and proposes perioperative management strategies. The ultimate goal is to reduce the perioperative risk of OSA patients but, to realize that goal, research will be needed to determine whether screening for OSA and/or adapting specific perioperative management approaches translates into a lessening of adverse events in surgical patients with undiagnosed OSA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Anesthesiology / methods*
  • Anesthetics / adverse effects*
  • Anesthetics / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*


  • Anesthetics