Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) during the postoperative period for prevention of postoperative morbidity and mortality following major abdominal surgery

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Aug 1;2014(8):CD008930. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008930.pub2.


Background: Major abdominal surgery can be associated with a number of serious complications that may impair patient recovery. In particular, postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs), including respiratory complications such as atelectasis and pneumonia, are a major contributor to postoperative morbidity and may even contribute to increased mortality. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a type of therapy that uses a high-pressure gas source to deliver constant positive pressure to the airways throughout both inspiration and expiration. This approach is expected to prevent some pulmonary complications, thus reducing mortality.

Objectives: To determine whether any difference can be found in the rate of mortality and adverse events following major abdominal surgery in patients treated postoperatively with CPAP versus standard care, which may include traditional oxygen delivery systems, physiotherapy and incentive spirometry.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) 2013, Issue 9; Ovid MEDLINE (1966 to 15 September 2013); EMBASE (1988 to 15 September 2013); Web of Science (to September 2013) and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (to September 2013).

Selection criteria: We included all randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in which CPAP was compared with standard care for prevention of postoperative mortality and adverse events following major abdominal surgery. We included all adults (adults as defined by individual studies) of both sexes. The intervention of CPAP was applied during the postoperative period. We excluded studies in which participants had received PEEP during surgery.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently selected studies that met the selection criteria from all studies identified by the search strategy. Two review authors extracted the data and assessed risk of bias separately, using a data extraction form. Data entry into RevMan was performed by one review author and was checked by another for accuracy. We performed a limited meta-analysis and constructed a summary of findings table.

Main results: We selected 10 studies for inclusion in the review from 5236 studies identified in the search. These 10 studies included a total of 709 participants. Risk of bias for the included studies was assessed as high in six studies and as unclear in four studies.Two RCTs reported all-cause mortality. Among 413 participants, there was no clear evidence of a difference in mortality between CPAP and control groups, and considerable heterogeneity between trials was noted (risk ratio (RR) 1.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.35 to 4.66; I(2) = 75%).Six studies reported demonstrable atelectasis in the study population. A reduction in atelectasis was observed in the CPAP group, although heterogeneity between studies was substantial (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.86; I(2) = 61%). Pneumonia was reported in five studies, including 563 participants; CPAP reduced the rate of pneumonia, and no important heterogeneity was noted (RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.21 to 0.84; I(2) = 0%). The number of participants identified as having serious hypoxia was reported in two studies, with no clear difference between CPAP and control groups, given imprecise results and substantial heterogeneity between trials (RR 0.48, 95% CI 0.22 to 1.02; I(2) = 67%). A reduced rate of reintubation was reported in the CPAP group compared with the control group in two studies, and no important heterogeneity was identified (RR 0.14, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.58; I(2) = 0%). Admission into the intensive care unit (ICU) for invasive ventilation and supportive care was reduced in the CPAP group, but this finding did not reach statistical significance (RR 0.45, 95% CI 0.18 to 1.14; I(2) = 0).Secondary outcomes such as length of hospital stay and adverse effects were only minimally reported.A summary of findings table was constructed using the GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) principle. The quality of evidence was determined to be very low.

Authors' conclusions: Very low-quality evidence from this review suggests that CPAP initiated during the postoperative period might reduce postoperative atelectasis, pneumonia and reintubation, but its effects on mortality, hypoxia or invasive ventilation are uncertain. Evidence is not sufficiently strong to confirm the benefits or harms of CPAP during the postoperative period in those undergoing major abdominal surgery. Most of the included studies did not report on adverse effects attributed to CPAP.New, high-quality research is much needed to evaluate the use of CPAP in preventing mortality and morbidity following major abdominal surgery. With increasing availability of CPAP to our surgical patients and its potential to improve outcomes (possibly in conjunction with intraoperative lung protective ventilation strategies), unanswered questions regarding its efficacy and safety need to be addressed. Any future study must report on the adverse effects of CPAP.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / surgery*
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / prevention & control
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Laparotomy
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Pneumonia / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Pulmonary Atelectasis / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Retreatment / statistics & numerical data