Key messages

• Postoperative diaphragmatic dysfunction is the major cause of alterations in respiratory mechanics and subsequent atelectasis.

• General anesthesia decreases total pulmonary compliance and favors the development of atelectasis in the dependent zones in the lung.

• Reduction in mucociliary clearance and cough contribute to the stagnation of bronchial secretions and favor atelectasis formation.

• Atelectasis is responsible for major changes in pulmonary gas exchange which often lead to severe hypoxemia.

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