Despite evidence suggesting detrimental effects of perioperative hyperoxia, hyperoxygenation remains commonplace in cardiac surgery. Hyperoxygenation may increase oxidative damage and neuronal injury leading to potential differences in postoperative neurocognition. Therefore, this study tested the primary hypothesis that intraoperative normoxia, as compared to hyperoxia, reduces postoperative cognitive dysfunction in older patients having cardiac surgery.


A randomized double-blind trial was conducted in patients aged 65 yr or older having coronary artery bypass graft surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass. A total of 100 patients were randomized to one of two intraoperative oxygen delivery strategies. Normoxic patients (n = 50) received a minimum fraction of inspired oxygen of 0.35 to maintain a Pao2 above 70 mmHg before and after cardiopulmonary bypass and between 100 and 150 mmHg during cardiopulmonary bypass. Hyperoxic patients (n = 50) received a fraction of inspired oxygen of 1.0 throughout surgery, irrespective of Pao2 levels. The primary outcome was neurocognitive function measured on postoperative day 2 using the Telephonic Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Secondary outcomes included neurocognitive function at 1, 3, and 6 months, as well as postoperative delirium, mortality, and durations of mechanical ventilation, intensive care unit stay, and hospital stay.


The median age was 71 yr (interquartile range, 68 to 75), and the median baseline neurocognitive score was 17 (16 to 19). The median intraoperative Pao2 was 309 (285 to 352) mmHg in the hyperoxia group and 153 (133 to 168) mmHg in the normoxia group (P < 0.001). The median Telephonic Montreal Cognitive Assessment score on postoperative day 2 was 18 (16 to 20) in the hyperoxia group and 18 (14 to 20) in the normoxia group (P = 0.42). Neurocognitive function at 1, 3, and 6 months, as well as secondary outcomes, were not statistically different between groups.


In this randomized controlled trial, intraoperative normoxia did not reduce postoperative cognitive dysfunction when compared to intraoperative hyperoxia in older patients having cardiac surgery. Although the optimal intraoperative oxygenation strategy remains uncertain, the results indicate that intraoperative hyperoxia does not worsen postoperative cognition after cardiac surgery.

Editor’s Perspective
What We Already Know about This Topic
  • High intraoperative inspired oxygen concentration may promote inflammation and consequent neurocognitive injury.
What This Article Tells Us That Is New
  • A total of 100 cardiac surgical patients were randomly assigned to 35 or 100% inspired oxygen before and after cardiopulmonary bypass.
  • Neurocognitive function 2 days, 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months after surgery was similar in each group.
  • Supplemental intraoperative oxygen does not worsen postoperative neurocognitive function. Inspired oxygen fraction should be chosen on the basis of other considerations.