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Management of Asthma Before Surgery

If you have moderate to severe asthma, you are at higher risk of having problems during and after surgery than people who do not have asthma. Careful asthma control in the weeks before surgery may help you reduce the risk of having complications. Some people with severe asthma may need a short treatment with corticosteroids by mouth to improve lung function before surgery and prevent complications.1

Complications that may occur during and after surgery include:

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  • Sudden airway narrowing triggered by placement of a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) into the airway before surgery.
  • Low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia) and possibly an increased blood level of carbon dioxide (hypercapnia).
  • Decreased ability to cough effectively.
  • Respiratory infection and collapse of the lung (atelectasis).
  • An allergic reaction to latex (if latex is used during surgery).


  1. National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH Publication No. 08–5846). Available online:

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised February 22, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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