Study Design. Retrospective comparative cohort analysis.
Objective. To evaluate the effect of an intraoperative and intensive care unit protocol on incidence of airway complications for patients undergoing combined anterior-posterior cervical decompression and fusion crossing the cervicothoracic junction (CTAPF).
Summary of Background Data. Airway compromise remains an important potential complication for patients undergoing CTAPF. Volume of intravenous fluid replacement perioperatively has been correlated with risk of airway complications in this patient population.
Methods. A retrospective cohort study was performed comparing airway complications (postoperative airway edema requiring reintubation and/or prolonged need for intubation) in patients undergoing CTAPF prior to and after introduction of a standardized protocol. The protocol required limitation of crystalloid fluid resuscitation intraoperatively, with maintenance of blood pressure using vasopressors. Comparisons between the 2 cohorts included operative time, intraoperative blood loss, volume of IV fluid replacement, and incidence of airway complications and dysphagia.
Results. Among patients operated prior to establishment of the protocol, 45% (9/20) experienced airway edema requiring extended intubation or reintubation. This rate was reduced to zero among 8 patients operated after the adoption of the protocol (P = 0.029). Intraoperative IV fluid volumes were reduced from 6190 mL to 4802 mL after institution of the protocol (P = 0.016). EBL and total surgical time did not differ between the 2 cohorts (1024 mL vs. 869 mL, P = 0.443; and 6.76 hr vs. 7.18 hr, P = 0.460). Incidence of dysphagia was not significantly different between the 2 cohorts.
Conclusion. Establishment of a fluid and airway management protocol for patients undergoing CTAPF reduced the incidence of prolonged intubation or reintubation. Given the potentially life-threatening impact of loss of airway patency, intraoperative restriction of IV fluid while maintaining adequate blood pressure may be helpful in increasing the safety of surgical intervention in this complex patient population.
Level of Evidence: 4