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ASA: Anesthesia Complications Drop by Half

Rate of serious problems was highest in patients over 50

MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Anesthesia-related complications in the United States have fallen by more than half, while the overall death rate has remained the same, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), held from Oct. 11 to 15 in New Orleans.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 3.2 million cases of anesthesia use between 2010 and 2013, and found the rate of complications decreased from 11.8 to 4.8 percent. The most common minor complication was nausea and vomiting (nearly 36 percent) and the most common major complication was medication error (nearly 12 percent). The death rate remained at three deaths per 10,000 surgeries/procedures involving anesthesia.

Among the other findings: complication rates were not higher among patients who had evening or holiday procedures; patients older than 50 had the highest rates of serious complications; and healthier patients having elective daytime surgery had the highest rates of minor complications.

"Our goal was to determine the nature and incidence of surgical complications at the national level and to identify their risk factors," study author Jeana Havidich, M.D., an associate professor of anesthesiology at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, said in an ASA news release. "Previous studies examined adverse events for specific surgical procedures, types of anesthesia or patient populations. This is the first time we've been able to look at such a large amount of data on a national level," Havidich said.

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