Intraoperative Awareness in Fast-track Cardiac Anesthesia

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Fast-track cardiac anesthesia, using low-dose narcotics combined with short-acting anesthetic and sedative agents, facilitates early tracheal extubation after cardiac surgery. The incidence of awareness with this anesthetic technique has not been investigated previously. The purpose of this study was to prospectively investigate the incidence of intraoperative awareness with explicit memory of events during fast-track cardiac anesthesia.


Data were collected prospectively over a 4-month period from 617 consecutive adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery at a university hospital. All patients received a fast-track cardiac anesthetic regimen. Patients underwent a structured interview by a research nurse 18 h after extubation. A standard set of questions was asked during this interview to determine if the patient had explicit memory of any event from induction of anesthesia to recovery of consciousness.


Nine patients did not complete a postoperative interview because of death (n = 7) or postoperative confusion (n = 2). The last memory before surgery reported in 420 (69.1%) patients was waiting in the holding area at the operating suite, and in the remaining 188 (30.9%) patients it was lying on the operating Table beforeinduction of anesthesia. Two patients (0.3%) had explicit memory of intraoperative events. One of the two patients also had explicit memory of pain. Neither patient reported adverse psychological sequelae.


The authors report an incidence of awareness in fast-track cardiac anesthesia of 0.3%. This is the lowest incidence of awareness currently reported during cardiac surgery. This low incidence of awareness may be related to the use of a balanced anesthetic technique involving the continuous administration of volatile (isoflurane) or intravenous (propofol) anesthetic agents before, during, and after cardiopulmonary bypass.

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