Because controversy exists regarding continued use of the seated position for neurosurgical procedures, this prospective (1981-1983) and retrospective (1972-1981) analysis of 554 seated patients was done to establish the incidence and severity of venous air embolism (VAE) related to type of surgical procedure and anesthetic technique; to examine the impact of specific monitoring practices on detection, morbidity, and mortality; and to establish the incidence of other complications related to the seated position (hypotension, quadriplegia, and arterial air embolism (AAE)). The overall morbidity and mortality related to the seated position was 1% (2 VAE, 1 AAE, 2 hypotension, 1 myocardial infarction) and 0.9% (1 VAE, 1 AAE, 2 hypotension, 1 quadriplegia), respectively. There has been no mortality since 1975. N2O did not seem to increase the incidence or severity of VAE. The seated position is safe in experienced hands if appropriate surgical and anesthetic skills are exercised in patient selection and management. Caution is advised in patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, severe hypertension, cervical stenosis, and right to left intracardiac shunts.

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