ZocdocAnswersMy 4 year old oxygen level dropped during routine surgery. Why would his oxygen level drop and not come back up quickly?

Question

My 4 year old oxygen level dropped during routine surgery. Why would his oxygen level drop and not come back up quickly?

My 4 year old was having tubes put in his ears as well as his adenoids & tonsils removed. During the surgery he aspirated and his oxygen levels dropped and didn't come back up quickly. The doctor said this could be because he was born 10 weeks premature. We may have not ever had any issues with his lungs before but he could have "preemie lungs"…they don't bounce back like a normal child. We are not going to see a pulmonologist. Why would his oxygen level drop and not come back up quickly? What is a "preemie lung"? Dr said it might be a diseased lung? Can anyone explain this to me?

Answer

Thanks for your question, and sorry to hear about your concerns around the time of surgery. First, this is a question that should be directed more to the surgeon and the anesthesiologist who were involved at the time of surgery. There are a number of different reasons that a child may not respond immediately to increased oxygenation, and the thought of "preemie lung" would not likely be the first thought of many surgeons. When a child aspirates, some blood, mucous, or food goes into the lungs. Usually, increased oxygenation and a little bit of positive pressure can help to keep things open. After awakening, the child may need to cough a bit more, and in some cases may require a round of antibiotics to help ward off infection (your doctor will make this decision based on the events that happen and the level of concern). There are times that other issues such as laryngospasm can cause the lungs to fail to ventilate properly, and this is quite a common problem in young children undergoing the surgeries that you are describing. What your doctor may be suggesting is that the normal pulmonary reserve was not present in your child. It would be difficult to prove or disprove this, or to prognosticate, without more information. Please speak with your doctor.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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