Studies show inadequate monitoring of patient respiratory status by capnography and pulse oximetry

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

March 25, 2015

Research presented at the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) Annual Meeting this month finds that pulse oximetry and capnography commonly used in hospitals do not protect patients and can trigger false alarms.

The studies, presented at the IARS meeting in Honolulu on March 23, all demonstrate the weakness of commonly used respiratory monitoring technologies and suggest they may dangerously expose patients to serious respiratory risks. Highlights include:

  • A study of post anesthesia care unit patients at Massachusetts General Hospital found more than 90% of PACU pulse oximetry alarms were false. It concluded, "Continuous minute ventilation monitoring gives advanced warning of developing respiratory depression … and provides early … data for caregivers to modify opioid dosing or other interventions to prevent progression of respiratory depression." The study found that "respiratory volume monitoring (RVM) has the potential to improve patient safety."

  • A second study comparing minute ventilation and capnography monitoring in intubated and nonintubated patients concludes capnography is "suboptimal for monitoring non-intubated patients" and the "inaccuracy and time lag in capnography reporting can compromise patient safety." It concludes that RVM should be used over capnography with these patients.

  • A third study that assessed the effectiveness of respiratory monitoring during and after upper endoscopies found that standard respiratory monitoring equipment cannot detect most transient respiratory depression events.  It concludes, "RVM has the potential to … improve patient safety."

Continue reading the full article at PRNewswire.