Background: Statistical data of mortality and morbidity related to anesthesia have not been reported in Japan since World War II. The need to comprehensively examine the events of cardiac arrest as well as mortality prompted the first national study in Japan.
Methods: Confidential questionnaires were sent to all Japan Society of Anesthesiologists Certified Training Hospitals every year from 1994 through 1998. Collected data were analyzed for incidence of cardiac arrest and other critical events during anesthesia and surgery, and their outcomes within 7 postoperative days. The principal causes of the critical incidents were also analyzed.
Results: With an average response rate of 39.9%, a total of 2,363,038 cases were documented over 5 years. The average incidence per year of cardiac arrest during surgery due to all etiologies and that totally attributable to anesthesia was 7.12 [95%CI: 6.30,7.94] and 1.00 [0.88, 1.12]) per 10,000 cases, respectively. The average mortality per year in the operating room or within 7 postoperative days due to all etiologies and that totally attributable to anesthesia was 7.18 [6.22, 8.13] and 0.21 [0.15, 0.27] per 10,000 cases, respectively. The two principal causes of cardiac arrest during anesthesia and surgery due to all etiologies were massive hemorrhage (31.9%) and surgery (30.2%), and those totally attributable to anesthesia were drug overdose or selection error (15.3%) and serious arrhythmia (13.9%). Preventable human errors caused 53.2% of cardiac arrest and 22.2% of deaths in the operating room totally attributable to anesthesia.
Conclusions: The rates in Japan of cardiac arrest and death during anesthesia and surgery due to all etiologies as well as those totally attributable to anesthesia are comparable to those of other developed countries.