Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with high perioperative morbidity and mortality among adults. The incidence and severity of anesthetic complications in children with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is unknown. We hypothesized that there would be an increased incidence of intra- and postoperative complications in children with SARS-CoV-2 infection as compared to those with negative testing.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study analyzing complications for children <18 years of age who underwent anesthesia between April 28 and September 30, 2020 at a large, academic pediatric hospital. Each child with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test within the prior 10 days was matched to a patient with a negative SARS-CoV-2 test based on American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status, age, gender, and procedure. Children who were intubated before the procedure, underwent organ transplant surgery, or had severe COVID-19 were excluded. The primary outcome was the risk difference of a composite of intra- or postoperative respiratory complications in children positive for SARS-CoV-2 compared to those with negative testing. Secondarily, we used logistic regression to determine the odds ratio for respiratory complications before and after adjustment using propensity scores weighting to adjust for possible confounders. Other secondary outcomes included neurologic, cardiovascular, hematologic, and renal complications, unanticipated postoperative admission to the intensive care unit, length of hospital stay, and mortality.
During the study period, 9812 general anesthetics that had a preoperative SARS-CoV-2 test were identified. Sixty encounters occurred in patients who had positive SARS-CoV-2 testing preoperatively and 51 were included for analysis. The matched controls cohort included 99 encounters. A positive SARS-CoV-2 test was associated with a higher incidence of respiratory complications (11.8% vs 1.0%; risk difference 10.8%, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.6–19.8; P = .003). After adjustment, the odds ratio for respiratory complications was 14.37 (95% CI, 1.59–130.39; P = .02) for SARS-CoV-2–positive children as compared to controls. There was no occurrence of acute respiratory distress syndrome, postoperative pneumonia, or perioperative mortality in either group.
Pediatric patients with nonsevere SARS-CoV-2 infection had higher rates of perianesthetic respiratory complications than matched controls with negative testing. However, severe morbidity was rare and there were no mortalities. The incidence of complications was similar to previously published rates of perianesthetic complications in the setting of an upper respiratory tract infection. This risk persisted after adjustment for preoperative upper respiratory symptoms, suggesting an increased risk in symptomatic or asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.