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Perianesthesia Implications of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Strauss, Penelope Z. PhD, CRNA, RRT

doi: 10.1097/CNQ.0000000000000044
Original Articles

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a complex medical condition that affects not only the airway but also the cardiopulmonary, endocrine, and central nervous systems. Obstructive sleep apnea can usually be identified with a focused history and physical examination and is commonly associated with obese, middle-aged men with hypertension and glucose intolerance. A high index of suspicion for OSA should arise when reports of loud snoring, nighttime arousal, and acid reflux accompanied by a history of stroke, atrial fibrillation, or congestive heart failure are elicited during a perianesthesia evaluation. Perianesthesia risk in OSA patients includes the potential for difficult airway management, cardiovascular instability, and abnormal sensitivity to sedation and analgesia. Typical doses of respiratory depressants may cause profound hypoventilation, apnea, or cardiopulmonary arrest in OSA patients. Central axial opioids and continuous intravenous opioid infusions should be avoided while nonopioid and non–centrally acting analgesics are recommended. Careful postoperative monitoring is important to preventing serious morbidity. Early identification of OSA and its comorbidities is key to developing a safe anesthesia and postoperative treatment plan.

Department of Acute and Continuing Care, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas.

Correspondence: Penelope Z. Strauss, PhD, CRNA, RRT, Department of Acute and Continuing Care, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 6901 Bertner Ave, SON 682, Houston, TX 77030 (

The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

© 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins