Nasal continuous positive airway pressure in the perioperative management of patients with obstructive sleep apnea submitted to surgery

Chest. 1995 Feb;107(2):367-74. doi: 10.1378/chest.107.2.367.


Anesthetic, sedative, and analgesic drugs have been shown in animals and humans to selectively impair upper airway muscle activity. In patients with an already compromised upper airway, these drugs may further jeopardize upper airway patency, especially during sleep. Thus, patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) are at high risk for surgery because of the use of the aforementioned drugs in the perioperative period. It has been recommended that such drugs should be avoided or used with extreme caution in patients with OSAS submitted to surgery. We report herein on 16 adult patients with documented OSAS undergoing various types of surgical procedures, including coronary artery bypass surgery. Anesthesia was carried on with the usual type of drugs for each type of surgery. Postoperative opioid analgesia and sedation were not restricted. The first patient, whose OSAS was diagnosed but not treated, died after various complications, including a respiratory arrest in the ward. The second patient experienced serious postoperative complications until a treatment for OSAS with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (N-CPAP) was instituted, and thereafter he made an uneventful recovery. The 14 following patients were started on N-CPAP before surgery, were put on N-CPAP as soon as extubated, on a near-continuous basis, for 24 to 48 h and thereafter for all sleep periods. None of them had major complications. The intensive care unit and hospital stays were the normal ones for each type of surgery in our institution. We conclude that N-CPAP started before surgery and resumed immediately after extubation allowed us to safely manage a variety of surgical procedures in patients with OSAS, and to freely use sedative, analgesic, and anesthetic drugs without major complications. Every effort should be made to identify patients with OSAS and institute N-CPAP therapy before surgery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Postoperative Care
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Preoperative Care
  • Respiratory Mechanics
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / therapy*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative*