Perioperative incidence of airway obstructive and hypoxemic events in patients with confirmed or suspected sleep apnea : a prospective, randomized pilot study comparing propofol/remifentanil and sevoflurane/remifentanil anesthesia

Background: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a risk factor for perioperative complications but data on anesthesia regimen are scarce.

Methods: In patients with established or strongly suspected OSA, we assessed in a prospective, randomized design the effects on nocturnal apnea-hypopnea-index (AHI) and oxygen saturation (SpO2) of propofol/remifentanil or sevoflurane/remifentanil based anesthesia. Patients were selected by a history for OSA and / or a positive STOP – questionnaire and received general anesthesia using remifentanil (12 μg/kg/h) combined either with propofol (4-6 mg/kg/h, n = 27) or sevoflurane (approx. 2.2 vol% endtidal, n = 27). AHI and SpO2 were measured during the nights before and after anesthesia.

Results: There were no differences in AHI between anesthetic regimens nor between the pre- and postoperative nights (propofol: 8.6 h− 1 (median, CI: 3.6–21.9) vs. 7.9 h− 1 (1.8–28.8); p = 0.97; sevoflurane: 3.8 h− 1 (1.8–7.3) vs. 2.9 h− 1 (1.2–9.5); p = 0.85). Postoperative minimum SpO2 (propofol: 80.7% ± 4.6, sevoflurane: 81.6 ± 4.6) did not differ from their respective preoperative baselines (propofol: 79.6% ± 6.5; p = 0.26, sevoflurane: 80.8% ± 5.2; p=0.39). Even in patients with a preanesthetic AHI > 15, nocturnal AHI remained unchanged postoperatively.

Conclusion: Thus, in a cohort of patients with suspected or confirmed OSA undergoing surgery of moderate duration and severity neither the volatile agent sevoflurane nor the intravenous anesthetic propofol altered nocturnal AHI or oxygen saturation, when combined with the short acting opioid remifentanil.


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