Intraoperative hypotension and the risk of postoperative adverse outcomes: a systematic review

Br J Anaesth. 2018 Oct;121(4):706-721. doi: 10.1016/j.bja.2018.04.036. Epub 2018 Jun 20.


Background: Intraoperative hypotension is a common side effect of general anaesthesia and might lead to inadequate organ perfusion. It is unclear to what extent hypotension during noncardiac surgery is associated with unfavourable outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a systematic search in PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and CINAHL, and classified the quality of retrieved articles according to predefined adapted STROBE and CONSORT criteria. Reported strengths of associations from high-quality studies were classified into end-organ specific injury risks, such as acute kidney injury, myocardial injury, and stroke, and overall organ injury risks for various arterial blood pressure thresholds.

Results: We present an overview of 42 articles on reported associations between various absolute and relative intraoperative hypotension definitions and their associations with postoperative adverse outcomes after noncardiac surgery. Elevated risks of end-organ injury were reported for prolonged exposure (≥10 min) to mean arterial pressures <80 mm Hg and for shorter durations <70 mm Hg. Reported risks increase with increased durations for mean arterial pressures <65-60 mm Hg or for any exposure <55-50 mm Hg.

Conclusions: The reported associations suggest that organ injury might occur when mean arterial pressure decreases <80 mm Hg for ≥10 min, and that this risk increases with blood pressures becoming progressively lower. Given the retrospective observational design of the studies reviewed, reflected by large variability in patient characteristics, hypotension definitions and outcomes, solid conclusions on which blood pressures under which circumstances are truly too low cannot be drawn. We provide recommendations for the design of future studies. CLINICAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: (PROSPERO ID). CRD42013005171.

Keywords: acute kidney injury; hypotension; mortality; myocardial ischemia; stroke.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / complications*
  • Intraoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality