Ventilatory frequency during intraoperative mechanical ventilation and postoperative pulmonary complications: a hospital registry study

Peter Santer, Shengxing Zheng, Maximilian Hammer, Sarah Nabel, Ameeka Pannu, Yunping Li, Satya Krishna Ramachandran, Marcos F. Vidal Melo, Matthias Eikermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: High ventilatory frequencies increase static lung strain and possibly lung stress by shortening expiratory time, increasing intrathoracic pressure, and causing dynamic hyperinflation. We hypothesised that high intraoperative ventilatory frequencies were associated with postoperative respiratory complications. Methods: In this retrospective hospital registry study, we analysed data from adult non-cardiothoracic surgical cases performed under general anaesthesia with mechanical ventilation at a single centre between 2005 and 2017. We assessed the association between intraoperative ventilatory frequency (categorised into four groups) and postoperative respiratory complications, defined as composite of invasive mechanical ventilation within 7 days after surgery or peripheral oxygen desaturation after extubation, using multivariable logistic regression. In a subgroup, we adjusted analyses for arterial blood gas parameters. Results: A total of 102 632 cases were analysed. Intraoperative ventilatory frequencies ranged from a median (inter-quartile range [IQR]) of 8 (8–9) breaths min−1 (Group 1) to 15 (14–18) breaths min−1 (Group 4). High ventilatory frequencies were associated with higher odds of postoperative respiratory complications (adjusted odds ratio=1.26; 95% confidence interval, 1.14–1.38; P<0.001), which was confirmed in a subgroup after adjusting for arterial partial pressure of carbon dioxide and the ratio of arterial oxygen partial pressure to fractional inspired oxygen. We identified considerable variability in the use of high ventilatory frequencies attributable to individual provider preference (ranging from 22% to 88%) and temporal change; however, the association with postoperative respiratory complications remained unaffected. Conclusions: High intraoperative ventilatory frequency was associated with increased risk of postoperative respiratory complications, and increased postoperative healthcare utilisation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e130-e139
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • desaturation
  • intraoperative mechanical ventilation
  • perioperative care
  • postoperative respiratory complications
  • reintubation
  • ventilatory frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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