RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
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The epidemiology of upper airway injury in patients undergoing major surgical procedures.

BACKGROUND: Airway injury is a potentially serious and costly adverse event of anesthesia care. The epidemiologic characteristics of airway injury have not been well documented.

METHODS: The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) is a multicenter, prospective, outcome-oriented database for patients undergoing major surgical procedures. Using the NSQIP data for the years 2005 to 2008, we examined the incidence of, and risk factors for, airway injury.

RESULTS: Of the 563,190 patients studied, 1202 (0.2%) sustained airway injury. The most common airway injury was lip laceration/hematoma (61.4%), followed by tooth injury (26.1%), tongue laceration (5.7%), pharyngeal laceration (4.7%), and laryngeal laceration (2.1%). Multivariable logistic modeling revealed an increased risk of airway injury in patients with Mallampati class III (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.69; 99% confidence interval [CI], 1.36-2.11, relative to patients with Mallampati classes I and II) or class IV (adjusted OR, 2.6; 99% CI, 1.52-4.02), and in patients aged 80 years or older (adjusted OR, 1.50; 99% CI, 1.02-2.19, relative to patients aged 40 to 49 years).

CONCLUSIONS: The risk of airway injury for patients undergoing major surgical procedures is approximately 1 in 500. Patients with difficult airways as indicated by Mallampati classes III and IV are at significantly increased risk of sustaining airway injury during anesthesia for major surgical procedures.

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