Postoperative pulmonary complications (PPCs) can increase hospital length of stay, postoperative morbidity and mortality. Despite many factors can increase the risk of PPCs, it is not known whether intraoperative ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) mismatch can be associated with an increased risk of PPCs after major non-cardiac surgery.


We enrolled patients undergoing general anesthesia for non-cardiac surgery and evaluated intraoperative V/Q distribution using the Automatic Lung Parameter Estimator technique. The assessment was done after anesthesia induction (T1), after 1 hour from surgery start (T2) and at the end of surgery (T3). We collected demographic and procedural information and measured intraoperative ventilatory and hemodynamic parameters at each time-point. Patients were followed up for 7 days after surgery and assessed daily for PPCs occurrence.


We enrolled 101 patients with a median age of 71 [62-77] years, a BMI of 25 [22.4-27.9] kg/m 2 and a preoperative ARISCAT score of 41 [34-47]. Of them, 29 (29%) developed PPCs, mainly acute respiratory failure (23%) and pleural effusion (11%). Patients with and without PPCs did not differ in levels of shunt at T1 (PPCs:22.4[10.4-35.9] % vs No PPCs:19.3[9.4-24.1] %, p=0.18) or during the protocol, while significantly different levels of high V/Q were found during surgery (PPCs:13[11-15] mmHg vs No PPCs:10[8-13.5] mmHg, p=0.007) and before extubation (PPCs:13[11-14]mmHg vs No PPCs:10[8-12] mmHg, p=0.006). After adjusting for age, ARISCAT, BMI, smoking, fluid balance, anesthesia type, laparoscopic procedure and surgery duration, high V/Q before extubation was independently associated with the development of PPCs (OR 1.147, CI 95% [1.021-1.289], p=0.02). The sensitivity analysis showed an E-value of 1.35 (CI=1.11).


In patients with intermediate/high risk of PPCs undergoing major non-cardiac surgery, intraoperative V/Q mismatch is associated with the development of PPCs. Increased high V/Q before extubation is independently associated with the occurrence of PPCs in the first 7 days after surgery.

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Competing Interests

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests.

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