BACKGROUND: To evaluate an early tracheal extubation feasibility in previously unselected orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) patients. METHODS: DESIGN: retrospective analysis. SETTING: National Health System Intensive Care Unit. PATIENTS: all the patients who underwent OLT during 1997 at our institution were evaluated. The anesthestic management was the same for all of them and a veno-venous bypass was always used during the anhepatic phase. Tracheal extubation was performed when metabolic and haemodynamic parameters were stable; the following extubation criteria were also considered: no residual curarization, normocarbia, ability to keep the airway patent, good respiratory drive, ability to carry out simple orders. No pre- or intraoperative criteria, as previously reported in the literature for OLT patients, were followed to perform tracheal extubation in the postoperative period. RESULTS: During 1997 forty OLTs were performed in 38 patients. Twenty-eight patients were successfully extubated within 3 hours from the end of the surgical procedure; three patients were extubated within 6 hours and three within 24 hours from the end of surgery; four patients needed more then 24 hours of ventilation or were impossible to wean. No patient was re-intubated. A correlation appeared evident between early extubation and the amount of the transfused red cell units, kidneys and lungs function, cardiovascular efficiency; no correlation emerged with patients age or the pre-transplant severity of the hepatic disease. CONCLUSIONS: To perform a safe early tracheal extubation in previously unselected OLT patients is feasible and it can be carried out in a wide number of them. The previously reported timing characterizing as "early" a tracheal extubation should be moved from 8 to 3 hours.
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