Background: Limited information exists about the epidemiology and outcome of surgical patients at increased risk of postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs), and how intraoperative ventilation was managed in these patients.
Objectives: To determine the incidence of surgical patients at increased risk of PPCs, and to compare the intraoperative ventilation management and postoperative outcomes with patients at low risk of PPCs.
Design: This was a prospective international 1-week observational study using the 'Assess Respiratory Risk in Surgical Patients in Catalonia risk score' (ARISCAT score) for PPC for risk stratification.
Patients and setting: Adult patients requiring intraoperative ventilation during general anaesthesia for surgery in 146 hospitals across 29 countries.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was the incidence of patients at increased risk of PPCs based on the ARISCAT score. Secondary outcomes included intraoperative ventilatory management and clinical outcomes.
Results: A total of 9864 patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The incidence of patients at increased risk was 28.4%. The most frequently chosen tidal volume (VT) size was 500 ml, or 7 to 9 ml kg predicted body weight, slightly lower in patients at increased risk of PPCs. Levels of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) were slightly higher in patients at increased risk of PPCs, with 14.3% receiving more than 5 cmH2O PEEP compared with 7.6% in patients at low risk of PPCs (P < 0.001). Patients with a predicted preoperative increased risk of PPCs developed PPCs more frequently: 19 versus 7%, relative risk (RR) 3.16 (95% confidence interval 2.76 to 3.61), P < 0.001) and had longer hospital stays. The only ventilatory factor associated with the occurrence of PPCs was the peak pressure.
Conclusion: The incidence of patients with a predicted increased risk of PPCs is high. A large proportion of patients receive high VT and low PEEP levels. PPCs occur frequently in patients at increased risk, with worse clinical outcome.
Trial registration: The study was registered at Clinicaltrials.gov, number NCT01601223.