Postoperative pulmonary edema

S R Lathan, M E Silverman, B L Thomas, W C Waters
Southern Medical Journal 1999, 92 (3): 313-5

BACKGROUND: Noncardiogenic pulmonary edema may be caused by upper airway obstruction due to laryngospasm after general anesthesia. This syndrome of "negative pressure pulmonary edema" is apparently well known among anesthesiologists but not by other medical specialists.

METHODS: We reviewed the cases of seven patients who had acute pulmonary edema postoperatively.

RESULTS: There was no evidence of fluid overload or occult cardiac disease, but upper airway obstruction was the most common etiology. Each patient responded quickly to therapy without complications.

CONCLUSIONS: Of the seven patients with noncardiogenic postoperative pulmonary edema, at least three cases were associated with documented laryngospasm causing upper airway obstruction. This phenomenon has been reported infrequently in the medical literature and may be underdiagnosed. Immediate recognition and treatment of this syndrome are important. The prognosis for complete recovery is excellent.

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