Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients are at increased risk for pulmonary and cardiovascular complications; perioperative mortality risk is unclear. This report analyzes cases submitted to the OSA Death and Near Miss Registry, focusing on factors associated with poor outcomes after an OSA-related event. We hypothesized that more severe outcomes would be associated with OSA severity, less intense monitoring, and higher cumulative opioid doses.
Inclusion criteria were age ≥18 years, OSA diagnosed or suspected, event related to OSA, and event occurrence 1992 or later and <30 days postoperatively. Factors associated with death or brain damage versus other critical events were analyzed by tests of association and odds ratios (OR; 95% confidence intervals [CIs]).
Sixty-six cases met inclusion criteria with known OSA diagnosed in 55 (83%). Patients were middle aged (mean = 53, standard deviation [SD] = 15 years), American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) III (59%, n = 38), and obese (mean body mass index [BMI] = 38, SD = 9 kg/m2); most had inpatient (80%, n = 51) and elective (90%, n = 56) procedures with general anesthesia (88%, n = 58). Most events occurred on the ward (56%, n = 37), and 14 (21%) occurred at home. Most events (76%, n = 50) occurred within 24 hours of anesthesia end. Ninety-seven percent (n = 64) received opioids within the 24 hours before the event, and two-thirds (41 of 62) also received sedatives. Positive airway pressure devices and/or supplemental oxygen were in use at the time of critical events in 7.5% and 52% of cases, respectively. Sixty-five percent (n = 43) of patients died or had brain damage; 35% (n = 23) experienced other critical events. Continuous central respiratory monitoring was in use for 3 of 43 (7%) of cases where death or brain damage resulted. Death or brain damage was (1) less common when the event was witnessed than unwitnessed (OR = 0.036; 95% CI, 0.007–0.181; P < .001); (2) less common with supplemental oxygen in place (OR = 0.227; 95% CI, 0.070–0.740; P = .011); (3) less common with respiratory monitoring versus no monitoring (OR = 0.109; 95% CI, 0.031–0.384; P < .001); and (4) more common in patients who received both opioids and sedatives than opioids alone (OR = 4.133; 95% CI, 1.348–12.672; P = .011). No evidence for an association was observed between outcomes and OSA severity or cumulative opioid dose.
Death and brain damage were more likely to occur with unwitnessed events, no supplemental oxygen, lack of respiratory monitoring, and coadministration of opioids and sedatives. It is important that efforts be directed at providing more effective monitoring for OSA patients following surgery, and clinicians consider the potentially dangerous effects of opioids and sedatives—especially when combined—when managing OSA patients postoperatively.