New UK Study Reveals 1 in 18 Anesthesia Procedures Have Potentially Serious Complications


Updated: 6:55 AM, Fri November 10, 2023

Title: New Study Reveals High Rate of Potentially Serious Complications in Anesthesia Procedures

A recent survey conducted by the 7th National Audit Project of the Royal College of Anesthetists (NAP7) has shed light on the occurrence of potentially serious complications during anesthesia procedures in the UK. The findings, published in the journal Anaesthesia, suggest that one in every 18 procedures under the supervision of an anesthetist is associated with such complications.

The study identified various risk factors that contribute to these complications. Young patients, particularly babies, individuals with comorbidities, males, and those with increased frailty are more likely to experience such complications. Additionally, the urgency and extent of surgery, as well as procedures performed at night or weekends, pose higher risks.

The research was a collaborative effort among experts from various UK hospitals. Dr. Andrew Kane, a Consultant in Anesthesia at James Cook University Hospital and Fellow at the Royal College of Anesthetists, Dr. Jasmeet Soar, a Consultant in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Southmead Hospital, and Professor Tim Cook, a Consultant in Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust, were among the authors involved in the project.

Complications and critical incidents during anesthesia can lead to harm or progress to more severe events, including cardiac arrest or even death. The study focused on a national cohort of unselected patients and involved the collection of anonymous data from an online survey. Out of 416 hospital sites invited to participate, 352 completed the study, resulting in a response rate of 85%.

Among the non-obstetric cases analyzed, a total of 1,705 potentially serious complications were reported out of 20,996 procedures. The most common complications were circulatory events, accounting for 36% of cases, followed by airway complications (25%), metabolic issues (15%), breathing difficulties (15%), other complications (6%), and neurological events (2%). It is worth noting that 4% of cases reported a single complication, 1% reported two complications, and 1% reported three or more complications.

The study revealed that in elective surgery, complications were uncommon, occurring at a rate of 1-10 per 1,000 cases or even less. However, in emergency surgeries, which accounted for 16% of the procedures analyzed, the rate of complications was significantly higher. Severe low blood pressure, major bleeding, heart rhythm irregularities, septic shock, significant acidosis, and electrolyte disturbances were all considered common in these cases, occurring at a rate of 10-100 per 1,000 cases.

Certain factors were found to be associated with an increased risk of complications. Very young age (less than 1 year), higher comorbidity levels as assessed by the American Society of Anesthesiology, male sex, increased frailty, urgency and extent of surgery, day of the week (with higher risk at weekends), and time of day all played a role in the occurrence of complications.

The authors emphasized that the factors identified often interacted with each other. For instance, surgeries performed at weekends or during the night tend to involve the most urgent cases, typically affecting elderly, frail, and unwell patients. Similarly, neonatal surgeries, which usually have a high urgency level and involve major procedures, contribute to the higher complication rate among babies.

Dr. Kane stated that this new data from the NAP7 Activity Survey provides valuable insight into the rates of potentially serious complications in modern anesthesia practice. He highlighted that while complications are relatively uncommon in elective surgery, their occurrence in emergency settings merits attention.

Prof. Cook emphasized that anesthesia care in the UK is predominantly provided by highly trained doctors, and the data highlight the low rate at which complications progress to patient harm, reaffirming that anesthesia remains a safe practice.

Dr. Soar concluded that the findings from this study, combined with their recent report on the elderly population’s changing demographics, comorbidities, and prevalence of obesity, emphasize the intrinsic risks associated with undergoing anesthesia and surgery. He suggested that these findings could contribute to improved risk assessments and informed consent processes.

Dr. Fiona Donald, President of the Royal College of Anesthetists, commended the safety protocols and effective management of complications by anesthetists and the surgical team. She emphasized the importance of understanding the factors that increase the risk of complications to further enhance perioperative care.

In conclusion, the survey conducted by NAP7 has shed light on the frequency of potentially serious complications in anesthesia procedures. The study highlights the importance of risk assessment and continues to contribute to advancements in perioperative care to ensure patient safety.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

Rohan Desai
Rohan Desai
Rohan Desai is a health-conscious author at The Reportify who keeps you informed about important topics related to health and wellness. With a focus on promoting well-being, Rohan shares valuable insights, tips, and news in the Health category. He can be reached at for any inquiries or further information.

Share post:



More like this

HERO Software Raises €40M in Series B Round to Revolutionize Tradesmen SMEs in Europe, Germany

HERO Software secures €40M to revolutionize tradesmen SMEs in Europe. Join as they lead the way in digitalizing the industry for success.

Robotic Revolution: Future of US Military with AI Warriors

Explore the future of US military with AI warriors and robotic revolution. Find out how smart machinery will shape warfare in the coming decade.

WHO Urges High-Risk Groups to Get COVID-19 Vaccines Amid Declining Coverage

WHO urges high-risk groups to get COVID-19 vaccines as coverage declines. Director-General calls for prioritizing health workers and individuals over 60.

‘Escape’ Hits Milestone: Surpasses 1 Million Viewers in 10 Days, South Korea

Action thriller 'Escape' hits milestone: surpasses 1 million viewers in 10 days, captivating audiences with a gripping storyline and intense performances.