Normal fluctuation of physiologic cardiovascular variables during anesthesia and the phenomenon of "smoothing"

Frank E. Block

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


With the advent of automated anesthesia record keeping devices, concern has arisen that "abnormal" values will appear in the record and possibly lead to medicolegal compromise. A retrospective review of automated records from a series of anesthesia cases was undertaken to determine if abnormal values do occur, how frequent they are, and whether they cause problems. A total of 14,826 (4,942 each) noninvasive heart rate, systolic, and diastolic blood pressure readings from 118 case printouts generated by a Diatek Arkive Patient Information Management System (63 cases) or a Data-scope Datatrac record keeper (55 cases) were recorded. The study sample covered a broad range of surgical operations, anesthetic procedures, and patient ages and medical histories. During these 118 anesthetics, the majority of readings of all three variables fell within normal ranges (defined for this study as 80 to 180 and 50 to 110 mm Hg for systolic and diastolic blood pressures, respectively, and 60 to 140 beats/min for heart rate). During the anesthetics, 3.6% of the systolic pressure readings, 13.25% of the diastolic readings, and 4.25% of the heart rate readings were recorded outside these ranges. No serious intraoperative or postoperative anesthesia complications were associated with these out-of-range readings, nor would they be expected in a sample of this size, since serious anesthetic complications are rare. This preliminary observation of one person's experience may help address the concern associated with allowing high and low blood pressure and heart rate readings to be automatically recorded "unsmoothed." In medicolegal situations, it should also begin to demonstrate that such fluctuations are neither uncommon nor abnormal, and that a true record of these readings should be neither a cause for concern nor an opportunity for medicolegal exploitation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-145
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Monitoring
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Equipment: monitors
  • Heart: cardiovascular variables
  • Records: anesthesia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Normal fluctuation of physiologic cardiovascular variables during anesthesia and the phenomenon of "smoothing"'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this