The safety of modern anesthesia for children with long QT syndrome

Simon D. Whyte, Aruna Nathan, Dorothy Myers, Scott C. Watkins, Prince J. Kannankeril, Susan P. Etheridge, Jason Andrade, Kathryn K. Collins, Ian H. Law, Jason Hayes, Shubhayan Sanatani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with long QT syndrome (LQTS) may experience a clinical spectrum of symptoms, ranging from asymptomatic, through presyncope, syncope, and aborted cardiac arrest, to sudden cardiac death. Arrhythmias in LQTS are often precipitated by autonomic changes. This patient population is believed to be at high risk for perioperative arrhythmia, specifically torsades de pointes (TdP), although this perception is largely based on limited literature that predates current anesthetic drugs and standards of perioperative monitoring. We present the largest multicenter review to date of anesthetic management in children with LQTS.

Methods: We conducted a multicentered retrospective chart review of perioperative management of children with clinically diagnosed LQTS, aged 18 years or younger, who received general anesthesia (GA) between January 2005 and January 2010. Data from 8 institutions were collated in an anonymized database.

Results: One hundred three patients with LQTS underwent a total of 158 episodes of GA. The median (interquartile range) age and weight of the patients at the time of GA was 9 (3-15) years and 30.3 (15.4-54) kg, respectively. Surgery was LQTS-related in 81 (51%) GA episodes (including pacemaker, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, and loop recorder insertions and revisions and lead extractions) and incidental in 77 (49%). â-blocker therapy was administered to 76% of patients on the day of surgery and 47% received sedative premedication. Nineteen percent of patients received total IV anesthesia, 30% received total inhaled anesthesia, and the remaining 51% received a combination. No patient received droperidol. There were 5 perioperative episodes of TdP, all in neonates or infants, all in surgery that was LQTS-related, and none of which was overtly attributable to anesthetic regimen. Thus the incidence (95% confidence interval) of perioperative TdP in incidental versus LQTS-related surgery was 0/77 (0%; 0%-5%) vs 5/81 (6.2%; 2%-14%).

Conclusions: With optimized perioperative management, modern anesthesia for incidental surgery in patients with LQTS is safer than anecdotal case report literature might suggest. Our series suggests that the risk of perioperative TdP is concentrated in neonates and infants requiring urgent interventions after failed first-line management of LQTS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)932-938
Number of pages7
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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