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See also Chapter 180.


  • Airway and airway equipment:
    • Mallampati classification may underestimate difficulty of intubation
    • Evaluate carefully neck mobility (presence of “buffalo hump” posteriorly)
    • Look at the patient supine as well as sitting (enlarged breasts, position of neck)
    • Have extra equipment (airway cart) immediately available when planning general anesthesia for a pregnant patient
    • Difficult intubation is more likely (risk increased about 4-fold)
    • Enlargement of lingual tonsils (protrusion of tongue) is an important reason for Mallampati 3–4 scores: this results in reduced orohypopharyngeal junction diameter
    • Increased risk of injury resulting in swelling and bleeding during laryngoscopy
    • When difficulty in intubation is anticipated, the route of choice for fiber-optic intubation is “oral” rather than nasal
  • NPO guidelines:
    • Fasting time for pregnant patients before elective cases is the same as that for the nonpregnant population
  • When is a pregnant patient considered to have a full stomach?
    • Presence of heartburn is suggested to be indicative of reduced lower esophageal sphincter (LES) tone (<20 cm H2O) and potential regurgitation during induction and mask ventilation
    • Early onset heartburn is hormonally driven
    • From about 20 weeks the enlarging uterus mechanically distorts the position of the stomach and the LES and increases intra-abdominal pressure
    • Gastric emptying is “not” reduced in pregnancy until advanced stages of labor
  • Looking after the fetus (see detailed discussion about fetal well-being and anesthesia):
    • Every pregnant patient should have an identified designated obstetrician with hospital privileges available before any elective surgery; in an emergency, attempts should be made to contact the on-call obstetrician
  • Laboratory tests:
    • Routine laboratory tests are similar to those for the nonpregnant female: CBC to evaluate for presence of anemia. All other tests should be performed as clinically indicated
    • Ketosis and hypoglycemia are common in pregnant patients when NPO for a prolonged period of time. This is well tolerated and routine testing is not recommended
    • Type and screen should be done for all cases in case labor ensues; extent of maternal hemorrhage is unpredictable
  • Postoperative planning:
    • Patients who are <24 weeks pregnant are recovered in the general PACU and are discharged to the general floor (fetus is not considered viable)
    • Patients who are >24 weeks pregnant are recovered and are transported to labor and delivery once stable postoperatively (monitoring, staff, and neonatology is immediately available should labor ensue)
    • ICU admission criteria are similar to those for nonpregnant patients; obstetrical input into ICU care should be arranged


  • Effect of maternal surgery on the offspring with emphasis on teratogenicity of anesthetic agents:
    • No anesthetic drug has been shown to be clearly dangerous to the human fetus
    • Incidence of stillbirth and birth defects is unchanged
    • Incidence of low birth weight is increased
    • Incidence of neural tube defects increased if surgery is in the first trimester
    • Although some agents (N2O, benzodiazepines) have been implicated in adverse neonatal outcome, these studies have been either refuted or associated with exposure in excess of an average anesthetic
    • There is no optimal anesthetic technique
    • Avoid elective surgery in the first trimester
    • Enhanced risk of preterm labor after abdominal and pelvic surgeries, especially in cases of acute ...

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