The effect of passive smoking on the incidence of airway complications in children undergoing general anaesthesia

Anaesthesia. 1996 Apr;51(4):324-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.1996.tb07740.x.


The aim of this study was to assess whether passive smoking affected the frequency of airway complications in children undergoing general anaesthesia. One hundred and twenty-five children undergoing general anaesthesia for elective daycase surgery were monitored for adverse respiratory events and desaturation during induction, intra-operatively and in the recovery room. Oxygen saturation was monitored throughout and a venous sample was taken for estimation of carboxyhaemoglobin levels. Parents were asked to fill in a questionnaire detailing their smoking habits. Sixty-three of the children were passive smokers with a potential daily exposure varying from 5-130 cigarettes. There was no difference in the frequency of respiratory events between passive smokers and those not exposed to cigarette smoke at induction or intra-operatively. However, in the recovery room, desaturation was significantly more common in passive smokers (p < 0.02). This was related to the cumulative number of cigarettes smoked by individuals to whom the child was exposed (p < 0.05). Neither carboxyhaemoglobin levels nor domiciliary address were predictive of desaturation. This study suggests that passive smoking contributes to postoperative arterial oxygen desaturation following general anaesthesia in children.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures
  • Anesthesia, General / adverse effects*
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology*
  • Infant
  • Intraoperative Complications*
  • Male
  • Respiration Disorders / etiology
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Carboxyhemoglobin