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The Anesthesia Perioperative “Call for Help”—Experience at a Quaternary Pediatric Medical Center: Analysis of 67,564 Anesthesia Encounters

Vlassakova, Bistra G., MD; Sinnott, Sean M., MS; Askins, Nissa, MS; Callahan, Matthew X., BA, BSc; Leahy, Izabela C., MS, RN; Zurakowski, David, MS, PhD; Hickey, Paul R., MD; Cravero, Joseph P., MD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000003353
Patient Safety: Original Clinical Research Report

BACKGROUND: During the past several decades, anesthesia has become increasingly safe. Truly major adverse events are rare, and anesthesia quality researchers have instituted programs to evaluate “near miss” or less critical adverse events to evaluate the safety of anesthesia delivery. In this study, we aimed to evaluate calls for emergency help in our institution as a surrogate for pending critical events. We hypothesized that calls would be more common in patients with high American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status, history of prematurity, and children with recent respiratory illness compared to those without these characteristics.

METHODS: We analyzed emergent calls for help initiated by perioperative personnel (“STAT” calls) between August 2011 and September 2015 at Boston Children’s Hospital. Our analysis had 2 phases: (1) All 193 STAT calls that occurred during this time period were analyzed for demographic variables (age, ASA physical status, gender) and specific features of the STAT calls (provider who initiated the call, anesthetic phase, presence of recent respiratory illness, location). We further categorized the STAT calls as “complicated” or “uncomplicated” based on an unexpected change in patient disposition, and analyzed how demographic factors and specific features related to the likelihood of a STAT call being complicated. (2) A subset of the total calls (108), captured after introduction of electronic intraoperative medical record in July 2012, were analyzed for the incidence of STAT calls by comparing the number and nature of the STAT calls to the number of surgical/diagnostic procedures performed.

RESULTS: Univariable and multivariable analysis of the entire cohort of STAT calls (193 cases) identified several characteristics that were more likely to be associated with a complicated STAT call: higher ASA physical status; history of respiratory illness; cardiac inciting event; occurrence during induction phase of general anesthesia; postanesthesia care unit location; and calls initiated by an attending physician or a pediatric anesthesia fellow. Multivariable analysis of the subset of 108 indicated that age <1 year and a history of prematurity were independent predictors of a higher incidence of STAT calls. Offsite anesthesia services were associated with a lower frequency of STAT calls independent of the other variables.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study offers the most comprehensive analysis of emergent perioperative calls for help in pediatric anesthesia to date. We identified several characteristics, independently associated with more complicated and frequent perioperative STAT calls. Further research is required to evaluate the utility of this information in preventing and treating adverse events in children undergoing surgery and anesthesia.

From the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Published ahead of print April 17, 2018.

Accepted for publication February 7, 2018.

Funding: None.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Address correspondence to Bistra G. Vlassakova, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Ave, Bader 3, Boston, MA 02115. Address e-mail to

© 2018 International Anesthesia Research Society
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