Anesthestic-related cardiac arrest and its mortality: A report covering 72,959 anesthetics over 10 years from a US teaching hospital

Myrna C. Newland, Sheila J. Ellis, Carol A. Lydiatt, K. Reed Peters, John H. Tinker, Debra J. Romberger, Fred A. Ullrich, James R. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Background: A prospective and retrospective case analysis study of all perioperative cardiac arrests occurring during a 10-yr period from 1989 to 1999 was done to determine the incidence, cause, and outcome of cardiac arrests attributable to anesthesia. Methods: One hundred forty-four cases of cardiac arrest within 24 h of surgery were identified over a 10-yr period from an anesthesia database of 72,959 anesthetics. Case abstracts were reviewed by a Study Commission composed of external and internal members in order to judge which cardiac arrests were anesthesia-attributable and which were anesthesia-contributory. The rates of anesthesia-attributable and anesthesia-contributory cardiac arrest were estimated. Results: Fifteen cardiac arrests out of a total number of 144 were judged to be related to anesthesia. Five cardiac arrests were anesthesia-attributable, resulting in an anesthesia-attributable cardiac arrest rate of 0.69 per 10,000 anesthetics (95% confidence interval, 0.085-1.29). Ten cardiac arrests were found to be anesthesia-contributory, resulting in an anesthesia-contributory rate of 1.37 per 10,000 anesthetics (95% confidence interval, 0.52-2.22). Causes of the cardiac arrests included medication-related events (40%), complications associated with central venous access (20%), problems in airway management (20%), unknown or possible vagal reaction in (13%), and one perioperative myocardial infarction. The risk of death related to anesthesia-attributable perioperative cardiac arrest was 0.55 per 10,000 anesthetics (95% confidence interval, 0.011-1.09). Conclusions: Most perioperative cardiac arrests were related to medication administration, airway management, and technical problems of central venous access. Improvements focused on these three areas may result in better outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-115
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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