Postoperative pulmonary complications and lung function in high-risk patients: a comparison of three physiotherapy regimens after upper abdominal surgery in general anesthesia

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1991 Feb;35(2):97-104. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.1991.tb03255.x.


The effect of three postoperative regimens of respiratory therapy on pulmonary complications and lung function was compared in high-risk patients. Fifty-one patients were randomized to: 1) conventional chest physiotherapy alone (PHYS), 2) chest physiotherapy and positive expiratory pressure (PEP), or 3) chest physiotherapy with both positive expiratory pressure and inspiratory resistance (RMT). Treatments were given twice daily by a physiotherapist and self-administered. The incidence of postoperative pulmonary complications (PPC) was respectively, 71%, 76% and 65% in the PHYS-, PEP- and RMT-groups. The incidence of PPC requiring treatment with antibiotic, bronchodilator or supplementary oxygen according to the existing clinical practice was 47%, 47% and 29%. The incidence of atelectasis was 65%, 64% and 60% and of pneumonia 29%, 35% and 6%. There was no difference between the groups, except for a tendency to a lower frequency of pneumonia in the RMT-group. Postoperatively forced vital capacity (FVC) decreased to mean 54%, forced expired volume in 1 s to 48% and functional residual capacity to 76% of preoperative values. Arterial oxygen tension (PaO2) declined to mean 8.1 kPa and arterial saturation (SaO2) to 89%. There was no difference between the groups except for FVC, PaO2 and SaO2 (P = 0.008, P = 0.008 and P = 0.002), which showed the least decrease in the RMT-group. None of the regimens could be considered as satisfactory concerning the prevention of PPC, but RMT seemed to be the most efficient. Insufficient self-administration of treatment was probably one of the causes of the overall high incidence of PPC in this study.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthesia, General
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Therapy / methods*
  • Risk Factors