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Capnography and Respiratory Depression

Hutchison, Rob PharmD; Rodriguez, Les MPH, RN, CPAN

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: February 2008 - Volume 108 - Issue 2 - p 35–39
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000310329.55432.9f
Department: PAIN Control

In order to determine whether opioid-naive patients at risk for respiratory depression are better monitored with either capnography or pulse oximetry and respiratory-rate assessment, the authors conducted a randomized, prospective trial. In 54 opioid-naive postoperative orthopedic patients at one hospital, capnography resulted in greater detection of respiratory depression, and the authors conclude that capnography may be more appropriate for use with postsurgical high-risk patients taking opioids on the general care nursing unit. Capnography's sensitivity in the detection of pauses in breathing in the sedated patient may have the added advantage of indicating those patients who may be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Further research is needed to confirm these results.

Rob Hutchison is a clinical specialist in pain management and palliative care at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Les Rodriguez is a clinical education specialist at Harris Methodist Southwest Hospital, Fort Worth, TX. The devices used in this study were supplied by Cardinal Health and were returned after their use; Hutchison also received an honorarium from Cardinal Health to speak at the 2007 convention of the American Society of Pain Management Nurses. Cardinal Health did not review the content of this article or in any way influence the study results. Contact author, Rob Hutchison: Pain Control is coordinated by Chris Pasero, MS, RN, FAAN:

Is capnography a good way to monitor at-risk postsurgical patients? A prospective trial examines the question.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.