Extubation after transsternal thymectomy for myasthenia gravis: a prospective analysis.
Recommendations concerning postoperative extubation after thymectomy for myasthenia gravis are presently based upon retrospective chart reviews. We present the results of a prospective investigation of time to extubation after thymectomy for 14 patients over a 12-month period based upon a protocol that included preoperative immunologic therapy, combined epidural and general anesthesia, postoperative epidural narcotic analgesia, and a standardized approach to discontinuation of ventilatory support. After a neurologist took measures to optimize preoperative neuromuscular function, all 14 patients received agents to produce lumbar epidural anesthesia and light general anesthesia. Muscle relaxants were avoided in all but one patient. Postoperative analgesia was initially maintained with epidural hydromorphone, then therapy was switched to patient-controlled intravenous morphine sulfate. Criteria for weaning from mechanical ventilation, first measured at the end of anesthesia, were partial pressure of oxygen (arterial) greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg (fraction of inspired oxygen = 0.40), partial pressure of carbon dioxide (arterial) less than or equal to 50 mm Hg, pH greater than or equal to 7.30, and respiratory rate less than or equal to 30 breaths/min. If these criteria were not met, ventilatory support was continued postoperatively with intermittent mandatory ventilation, and the patient was weaned gradually from this support. Criteria for extubation included meeting the criteria for weaning, vital capacity greater than or equal to 10 mL/kg, and inspiratory pressure better than -30 cm H2O. Criteria for reintubation included tachypnea (respiratory rate greater than 40 breaths/min), respiratory acidosis not due to narcotics, or vital capacity less than or equal to 8 mL/kg. The mean time to extubation was 9 hours (range, 0.75 to 25 hours). Mean preoperative vital capacity was 2.59 +/- 0.64 L (range, 1.90 to 4.20), which decreased approximately 50% to 1.19 +/- 0.39 L (range, 0.70 to 2.0) at the time of extubation. No patient required reintubation. Half of the patients required postoperative anticholinesterase therapy based upon serial neurologic examinations; there were no instances of cholinergic crisis. Thirteen patients returned to the ward on the first postoperative day, and one on the second day. Thirteen patients preferred epidural analgesia to patient-controlled analgesia. The time to extubation and average length of stay in an intensive care setting were markedly reduced compared to those reported in previous retrospective studies. We conclude that a multidisciplinary approach that optimizes neuromuscular function and decreases poststernotomy pulmonary insult will shorten the time to extubation and decrease the length of stay in the intensive care or recovery room after thymectomy.
Gorback, MS; Moon, RE; Massey, JM
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