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Anaesthesia-associated mortality on the rise

Anaesthesia-associated mortality has risen again, according to a selective literature review of André Gottschalk’s working group at the Bochum University Hospital in the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

The reasons for this, it is suggested, are the disproportionate increase in the numbers of older and multimorbid patients and surgical procedures that would have been unthinkable in the past.

In the 1940s, anaesthesia-related mortality was 6.4/10,000. By introducing safety standards such as pulse oximetry and capnometry, the rate was reduced to 0.4/100,000 by the late 1980s. This value still applies for patients without relevant systemic disease.

However, mortality has risen in patients with relevant comorbidities (0.69/100,000), including heart failure, angina pectoris, chronic renal failure and severe malignant hypertension. Because of improved safety standards, such patients can have surgery nowadays—something that would have been unthinkable in the past owing to their multimorbidity.

Another factor explaining anaesthesia-related mortality is the fact that the proportion of patients who are older than 65 rose in Germany from 28.8% in 2005 to 40.9% in 2009.

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