CONTROLLING PAIN: Eyeing capnography to improve PCA safety
Yvonne D'Arcy CRNP, CNS, MS

September 2007 
Volume 37  Number 9
Pages 18 - 19
  PDF Version Available!


D'Arcy, Yvonne CRNP, CNS, MS

Yvonne D'Arcy is a nurse practitioner in pain management and palliative care at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., and is a member of the Nursing2007 editorial advisory board. Figure. No caption available.

QUESTION: Is capnography better than pulse oximetry for monitoring for respiratory depression in a patient receiving an opioid via patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump?

ANSWER: Monitoring for respiratory depression is always a priority when a patient is receiving an opioid. Capnography (also called end-tidal carbon dioxide [ETCO 2 ] monitoring) is a more reliable indicator of respiratory depression than pulse oximetry, which measures peripheral arterial oxygen saturation (SpO 2 ). Pulse oximetry won't provide accurate information about hypoventilation if the patient is receiving supplemental oxygen. 1

The incidence of respiratory depression in patients using PCA for postoperative pain relief may be significantly ...

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