Article Abstract

Anaesthetic considerations for non-intubated thoracic surgery

Authors: Joanne Frances Irons, Guillermo Martinez


General anaesthesia with intubation and single lung ventilation has always been considered essential for thoracic surgery. Over the last decade there has been a huge evolution in thoracic surgery with the development of multiport and uniportal minimally invasive techniques. The development of a non-intubated technique during which thoracic surgery is performed on patients who are spontaneously ventilating awake, under minimal sedation with the aid of local or regional anaesthesia or under general anaesthesia with a supraglottic airway device is winning acceptance as a valid alternative technique. The concept is to allow the creation of a spontaneous pneumothorax as the surgeon enters the chest. This can provide excellent lung isolation without the need for positive pressure ventilation on the dependant lung. Awake and minimal sedation techniques, which avoid the need for general anaesthesia, maintain a more physiological cardiopulmonary and neurological status and avoid postoperative nausea and vomiting. However, general anaesthesia with a supraglottic airway device is the technique that provides a more stable airway and facilitates oxygenation in cases where an unexpected conversion to open thoracotomy in needed. For non-intubated thoracic surgery a regional analgesic technique is essential; nonetheless a ‘multimodal’ approach to analgesia is recommended. Non-intubated anaesthetic techniques for thoracic surgery are innovative and exciting and drive to reduce the invasiveness of the procedures. We recommend that centres starting out with non-intubated techniques begin by performing minor video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) procedures in selected low risk patients. Early elective conversion should be employed in any unexpected surgical difficulty or cardiopulmonary problem during the learning curve to reduce the risk of emergency conversion and complications. Further research is needed to establish which patients benefit more from the technique and what is the real impact on perioperative mortality and morbidity.