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A Journal on Anesthesiology, Resuscitation, Analgesia and Intensive Care

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Anesthesiology, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care
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ANAESTHESIA  SMART 2003 - Milan, may 28-30, 2003

Minerva Anestesiologica 2003 May;69(5):402-6

language: English

Gastric reflux and pulmonary aspiration in anaesthesia

Smith G., Ng A.

University Department of Anaesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Management Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester UK


Although aspiration is a relatively rare event during anaesthesia, it represent an important cause of anaesthesia related mortality and also of ventilator associated pneumonia in intensive care unit. The incidence of aspiration is markedly increased after trauma owing to the risk of recent ingestion of food, depression of consciousness and airways reflexes, and gastric stasis induced by raised sympathoadrenal tone. The factors which contribute to the likelihood of aspiration include the urgency of surgery, airways problems, inadequate depth of anaesthetic, use of the lithotomy position, gastrointestinal problems, depressed consciousness, increased severity of illness and obesity. Factors that predispose to aspiration pneumonia are: a gastric content with a pH less than 2.5 and a gastric volume of 0.4 ml kg-1; a reduction in lower oesophageal sphincter tone; a reduction of upper oesophageal sphincter tone and a not coordination between the pharyngeal muscle and the upper oesophageal sphincter tone during swallowing; and a depression of protective airway reflexes. Methods to minimize regurgitation and aspiration involve control of gastric contents (preoperative starvation is the method universal accepted), application of cricoid pressure and control of the airways.

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