Continuous Positive Airway Pressure for Treatment of Respiratory Complications After Abdominal Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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We evaluated the potential benefit of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to prevent postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs), atelectasis, pneumonia, and intubation in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery.

Summary Background Data:

PPCs are common during the postoperative period and may be associated with a high morbidity rate. Efficacy of CPAP to prevent PPCs occurrence is controversial.


Medical literature databases were searched for randomized controlled trials examining the use of CPAP versus standard therapy in patients undergoing abdominal surgery. The meta-analysis estimated the pooled risk ratio and the number needed to treat to benefit (NNTB) for PPCs, atelectasis, and pneumonia.


The meta-analysis was carried out over 9 randomized controlled trials. Overall, CPAP significantly reduced the risk of (1) PPCs (risk ratio, 0.66; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.52–0.85) with a corresponding NNTB of 14.2 (95% CI, 9.9–32.4); (2) atelectasis (risk ratio, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.58–0.97; NNTB, 7.3; 95% CI, 4.4–64.5); (3) pneumonia (risk ratio, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.14–0.75; NNTB, 18.3; 95% CI, 14.4–48.8). In all cases the variation in risk ratio attributable to heterogeneity was negligible, although there was some evidence of publication bias.


This systematic review suggests that CPAP decreases the risk of PPCs, atelectasis, and pneumonia and supports its clinical use in patients undergoing abdominal surgery.

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