Postoperative pulmonary complications: pneumonia and acute respiratory failure

Surg Clin North Am. 2012 Apr;92(2):321-44, ix. doi: 10.1016/j.suc.2012.01.013.


Postoperative pulmonary complications (atelectasis, pneumonia, pulmonary edema, acute respiratory failure) are common, particularly after abdominal and thoracic surgery, pneumonia and atelectasis being the most common. Postoperative pneumonia is associated with increased morbidity, length of hospital stay, and costs. Few institutions have pneumonia prevention programs for surgical patients, and these should be strongly considered. Acute respiratory failure is a life-threatening pulmonary complication that requires institution of mechanical ventilation and admission to the intensive care unit, and is associated with increased risk for ventilator-associated pneumonia. This article discusses epidemiology, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of these pulmonary complications in surgical patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors