Airway Management Protocol After Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery: Analysis of the Results of Risk Factors Associated With Airway Complication

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Study Design.Retrospective comparative cohort analysis.Objective.To evaluate the effect of postoperative airway management protocol (ASAN Extubation Protocol, AEP) on incidence of airway complications for patients undergoing anterior cervical spine surgery (ACSS).Background.Postoperative airway compromise remains crucial for patients undergoing ACSS. Despite the potential severity of these complications, the data in the published literature addressing this issue is sparse.Methods.A retrospective cohort study was performed regarding airway complications (postoperative airway edema requiring unplanned reintubation or tracheostomy) between groups of patients undergoing ACSS before and after applying our standardized protocol (AEP) for postoperative extubation. The AEP was developed based on 5 clinical risk factors reported having relation to airway complication. Postoperative patients with any oneor more risk factors were kept intubated for at least overnight and extubation was conducted according to the amount of prevertebral soft tissue swelling.Results.A total of 538 ACSS patients were identified from 2008 to 2016. The nonprotocol group (before protocol application, 275 patients) and the Protocol group (after protocol, 263 patients) were compared; airway complication rates were significantly different between two groups (nonprotocol: 3.64% (10/275) vs. protocol: 0.76% (2/263), P = 0.024). The possible factors that may increase airway complication include operative indications (P = 0.002), trauma (P = 0.000), medical comorbidity risk (P = 0.011), combined anterior and posterior surgery (P = 0.002), and operation time longer than 5 hours (P = 0.045). In multivariate analysis, medical comorbidity risk, trauma, and airway protocol adoption were significant factors. AEP reduced the airway complication rate by odds ratio 0.125 (P = 0.013).Conclusion.Postoperative airway complication is not very common after ACSS. AEP contributed to reduce the incidence of airway complications. The potentially life-threatening event of loss of airway patency, even though it is a rare complication, should be cautiously analyzed with identification of risk factors before the surgery.Level of Evidence: 2

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