Perioperative anaesthetic management of mediastinal mass in adults

Erdös, Gabor; Tzanova, Irene (2009). Perioperative anaesthetic management of mediastinal mass in adults. European journal of anaesthesiology, 26(8), pp. 627-32. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 10.1097/EJA.0b013e328324b7f8

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Mediastinal mass syndrome remains an anaesthetic challenge that cannot be underestimated. Depending on the localization and the size of the mediastinal tumour, the clinical presentation is variable ranging from a complete lack of symptoms to severe cardiorespiratory problems. The administration of general anaesthesia can be associated with acute intraoperative or postoperative cardiorespiratory decompensation that may result in death due to tumour-related compression syndromes. The role of the anaesthesiologist, as a part of the interdisciplinary treatment team, is to ensure a safe perioperative period. However, there is still no structured protocol available for perioperative anaesthesiological procedure. The aim of this article is to summarize the genesis of and the diagnostic options for mediastinal mass syndrome and to provide a solid detailed methodology for its safe perioperative management based on a review of the latest literature and our own clinical experiences. Proper anaesthetic management of patients with mediastinal mass syndrome begins with an assessment of the preoperative status, directed foremost at establishing the localization of the tumour and on the basis of the clinical and radiological findings, discerning whether any vital mediastinal structures are affected. We have found it helpful to assign 'severity grade' (using a three-grade clinical classification scale: 'safe', 'uncertain', 'unsafe'), whereby each stage triggers appropriate action in terms of staffing and apparatus, such as the provision of alternatives for airway management, cardiopulmonary bypass and additional specialists. During the preoperative period, we are guided by a 12-point plan that also takes into account the special features of transportation into the operating theatre and patient monitoring. Tumour compression on the airways or the great vessels may create a critical respiratory and/or haemodynamic situation, and therefore the standard of intraoperative management includes induction of anaesthesia in the operating theatre on an adjustable surgical table, the use of short-acting anaesthetics, avoidance of muscle relaxants and maintenance of spontaneous respiration. In the case of severe clinical symptoms and large mediastinal tumours, we consider it absolutely essential to cannulate the femoral vessels preoperatively under local anaesthesia and to provide for the availability of cardiopulmonary bypass in the operating theatre, should extracorporeal circulation become necessary. The benefits of establishing vascular access under local anaesthesia clearly outweigh any associated degree of patient discomfort. In the case of patients classified as 'safe' or 'uncertain', a preoperative consensus with the surgeons should be reached as to the anaesthetic approach and the management of possible complications.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic and Policlinic for Anaesthesiology and Pain Therapy

UniBE Contributor:

Erdös, Gabor




Lippincott Williams & Wilkins




Jeannie Wurz

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 15:11

Last Modified:

23 Jan 2018 12:17

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URI: (FactScience: 195684)

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