The Particulars: Time spent in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) has been identified as a source of much patient morbidity in previous studies. The incidence of PACU complications was last quantified in a large study that looked at data from 1986 to 1989. It is not known if the incidence of PACU complications has changed in the past 20 years.
Data Breakdown: An evaluation of consecutive cases from 1990 to 2010 found that the overall PACU complication rate decreased from 23.7% to 14.8% during the study period. Postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV) was the most common morbidity in the PACU throughout the study period, followed by hypotension and upper airway support. Women had a significantly higher complication rate than men (11.4% vs. 9.3%).
Take Home Pearls: Complications occurring in the PACU appear to have significantly decreased in incidence over the past 20 years. PONV appeared to be the most common complication seen in the PACU.