Effects of information feedback and pulse oximetry on the incidence of anesthesia complications

Anesthesiology. 1987 Nov;67(5):686-94. doi: 10.1097/00000542-198711000-00012.


No standard outcome measures exist to evaluate the effect of interventions intended to improve the quality of anesthesia care. The authors established a clinically practical definition of outcome, and used it to assess the effect of feedback of information about complications and the effect of pulse oximetry on the rate and severity of important anesthesia-related problems encountered in the operating room (OR) and recovery room (RR). On admission to the RR, the patient's anesthetist documented Recovery-Room-Impact Events (RRIE), defined as an "unanticipated, undesirable, possibly anesthesia-related effect that required intervention, was pertinent to recovery-room care, and did or could cause at least moderate morbidity." Following a control period with no feedback of data, intense feedback of grouped (anonymous) RRIE rates was provided. Later, pulse oximeters were introduced to all anesthetizing locations. Among 12,088 patients (71% of all RR admissions), 18% had at least one RRIE in the OR or RR. The most common RRIEs were hypotension (4.4%), arrhythmia (3.9%), hypertension (1.5%), intubation difficulties (0.8%), hypoventilation (0.8%), and hypovolemia (0.6%). Feedback of information produced no demonstrable change in the rate of RRIEs. Although significantly fewer patients experienced RRIEs (15.6% vs. 12.4%, P less than 0.0001), hypotensive RRIEs (5.2% vs. 3.8%, P = 0.0003), and hypovolemic RRIEs (0.88% vs. 0.42%, P = 0.0017) following the introduction of pulse oximetry in the OR, confounding factors prevent establishment of a cause-and-effect relationship. Quality assurance may require more direct intervention and individual feedback to be effective. Still, the RRIE measure requires minimal effort at low cost and encourages improved transmission of information at the time of admission to recovery-room care.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects*
  • Anesthesiology*
  • Documentation
  • Feedback*
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Oximetry*
  • Recovery Room
  • Risk Management / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires