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Respiratory problems in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU)

Edward A Bittner, MD, PhD, MSEd, FCCM
Edward George, MD, PhD
Section Editor
Natalie F Holt, MD, MPH
Deputy Editors
Nancy A Nussmeier, MD, FAHA
Geraldine Finlay, MD


Respiratory complications are the second most common problem requiring treatment in the immediate postoperative period, after nausea and vomiting [1,2]. Etiologies are varied and can be due to abnormalities in the upper airway, lower airway, or lung parenchyma, as well as abnormalities of peripheral nerves and muscles that control breathing. Appropriate monitoring, early diagnosis, and timely management are critical since even potentially fatal respiratory compromise is usually reversible.

This topic will review monitoring, assessment, and management of respiratory problems in adults admitted to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). Evaluation of preoperative pulmonary risk, strategies to reduce postoperative pulmonary complications, and management of these complications after PACU discharge are presented separately.

(See "Evaluation of preoperative pulmonary risk".)

(See "Strategies to reduce postoperative pulmonary complications in adults".)

(See "Overview of the management of postoperative pulmonary complications".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 13, 2017.
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