Anesthetic Management of Post-Thoracotomy Complications

  • Jesse M. Raiten
  • Randal S. Blank


The immediate postoperative period following thoracic surgery is a dynamic time characterized by rapidly changing physiology. Anesthetic and surgically related complications may become evident and may require immediate intervention. Although most patients undergoing thoracic surgery are extubated immediately following surgery, preexisting lung disease may necessitate postoperative mechanical ventilation. Patients remaining intubated postoperatively should be assessed frequently for extubation and ventilator modes utilized that promote spontaneous ventilation and low airway pressures. Airway-related complications are not uncommon and may be due to anesthetic or surgical technique. The large caliber of double lumen endotracheal tubes may increase the risk of airway injury. Vocal cord palsies and airway bleeding may also occur. Intrathoracic complications range from relatively minor air leaks to life-threatening bronchopleural fistulas. Preoperative prophylaxis against deep venous thrombosis helps prevent pulmonary embolism. Other complications such as phrenic nerve injury may become evident immediately postoperatively or after a prolonged period of mechanical ventilation in the ICU. Atrial fibrillation is a very common complication following thoracic surgery. Its management depends on the patient’s hemodynamic status. New onset atrial fibrillation should prompt a thorough review of the patient’s overall wellbeing. Other cardiac complications are less common, including cardiac herniation and interatrial shunting.


Spontaneous Ventilation Spontaneous Breathing Trial Bronchopleural Fistula Bronchial Stump Onset Atrial Fibrillation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesse M. Raiten
    • 1
  • Randal S. Blank
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anesthesiology and Critical CareUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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