Pseudocholinesterase deficiency in ophthalmology: a systematic review

Tiffany Cheng, Michael Curley, Anne Barmettler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Unexpected anesthesia-related complications are among the most feared outcomes of ambulatory surgery. One potential culprit is pseudocholinesterase deficiency, which most commonly presents with protracted apnea, necessitating prolonged mechanical ventilation. We report the first case of pseudocholinesterase deficiency in a Bengali person and the first systematic review of pseudocholinesterase deficiency in ophthalmology. This review analyzed the epidemiology, etiologies, presentation, evaluation, and treatment of pseudocholinesterase deficiency. Methods: Searches were conducted in PubMed, Embase, and Medline through August of 2022 for publications related to pseudocholinesterase deficiency in ophthalmology. In total, 689 studies were screened by two independent reviewers with 26 full-text articles examined for inclusion eligibility. Nineteen studies were eligible and included in the final analysis. Results: Of the 16 identified cases of pseudocholinesterase deficiency, nine (56%) were drug-induced, four (25%) were inherited deficiencies, and in one (6%) of the cases, the cause could not be determined. In two (13%) cases, pseudocholinesterase deficiency could not be confirmed or ruled out. The duration of post-operative apnea ranged from 10 minutes to 14 hours. Continued ventilatory support was the main treatment for all cases and all patients made a full recovery. Conclusions: Pseudocholinesterase deficiency is a rare, but potentially fatal, anesthetic complication that results in prolonged apnea, respiratory distress, and dependency on ventilators. Ophthalmologists should remain aware of this condition, especially when planning outpatient procedures, as ambulatory centers may have limited resources for managing prolonged post-operative complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrbit (London)
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • anesthesia
  • deficiency
  • ophthalmology
  • Pseudocholinesterase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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