Ambulatory Surgery: Room Air Versus Nasal Cannula Oxygen During Transport After General Anesthesia

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We compared outpatients transported to the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) while breathing room air to 2–4 L/min nasal cannula oxygen (O2) to test the hypothesis that routine supplemental O2 during transport is not required after general anesthesia in an ambulatory surgery center. We also examined whether the arbitrary arrival PACU O2 saturations of >92% may be used to predict an infrequent incidence of subsequent significant desaturations (<90%) in the PACU. One-hundred-ninety patients were randomized to receive either room air or 2–4 L/min nasal cannula for transport to PACU after receiving general anesthesia. O2 saturations were recorded before surgery, just before leaving the operating room, and upon arrival in the PACU. The lowest O2 saturation occurring in the PACU was also recorded. The mean arrival PACU O2 saturation was 95.0 in the Room Air group, compared with 97.2 for the Nasal Cannula (NC) group, a statistically significant difference (P < 0.001). In the Room Air group, 20% had arrival O2 saturations ≤92%, and half of these (10%) had O2 saturations <90%. In the NC group, 6% had O2 saturations ≤92%, of which one third (2%) were <90% on arrival in the PACU. All of these initial desaturations were easily corrected with face-tent O2 administration, deep breathing, or both. Subgroup analysis revealed that patients whose ages were 60 yr or older or those weighing 100 kg or more had lower arrival room air saturations than their younger or slimmer counterparts. In the Room Air group, only three (3.9%) of the patients that arrived in PACU with O2 saturations >92% had subsequent desaturations <90%, compared with seven (7.9%) in the NC group. We conclude that most adult patients undergoing ambulatory surgery can be transported safely to the PACU breathing room air after general anesthesia. However, patients whose age was ≥60 yr or weight was ≥100 kg, or for whom transient O2 desaturation on transport may be harmful, should be transported while breathing nasal O2 via nasal cannula.

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