Capnography and its Role in Improving Safety of Anesthesia

Capnographs are devices that can monitor the levels of carbon dioxide in human breath. The capability of capnographs to provide a breath-by-breath measurement of the ventilation of a patient allows for quick understanding of any worsening trends in a patient’s health condition. Studies have demonstrated that the use of capnographs leads to a much more effective understanding of an adverse respiratory condition than years of clinical experience and quick decisions made during emergencies. Thus, these devices are now considered essential as an added safety measure in medical treatments, especially in the ones that involve anesthesia.

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Abrupt and abnormal changes in the level of carbon dioxide can be indicative of hypoxia, a condition in which the body or certain parts of the body are deprived of adequate oxygen supply. If such is the case, it can lead to severe brain damage. Use of capnographs in such situations can easily prevent the damage.

Capnographs can also be used as a means for measuring the production of carbon dioxide to understand the mechanism of body metabolism. An increased level of carbon dioxide production is normal during shivering and fevers, while a decreased level is common during hypothermia and anesthesia. Abnormal rise or decrease in carbon dioxide’s level needs to be tracked to keep a patient safe while unconscious.

From the time cumbersome models of capnographs were used mostly in operating rooms to current times, when highly evolved models of capnographs are being widely used in emergency rooms, x-ray rooms, endoscopic suites, and even by EMS professionals in the fields of on-site emergency and trauma, the field of capnography has undergone huge evolution.

Why are Capnographs Essential during Anesthesia?

Though the rate of anesthesia-related mortality has undergone a stark reduction, the risk of such deaths is still studied extensively. Gaining information about adverse anesthetic mishaps such as esophageal intubation or ventilator disconnection can prevent even the marginal percentage of cases of anesthesia-related deaths and brain damage. Thus, the use of capnographs, which have proved to be highly effective in alarming medical practitioners and anesthetists regarding an adverse change in the patient’s ventilation, warrants considerable attention.

In the pursuit of higher patient safety, anesthesiologists have shown an increased rate of adoption of capnographs as a part of standard care during anesthesia. In fact, in many countries, there are anesthetists who never practice without monitoring devices such as capnographs. The routine use of capnographs is also mandated in rules and regulations or standard guidelines of anesthesia organizations in a number of countries.

Rising Use of Capnographs across the Globe

A WHO report published in 2009 regarding safe surgery recommends the use of capnographs during hypoventilation, endotracheal tube placement, and esophageal intubation for a better treatment outcome. Several standards in developed countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. mandate that the adequacy of ventilation be continually evaluated in patients receiving general anesthesia.

A report published by Persistence Market Research states that the market of capnography equipment has observed a high upward surge in the Latin American region. The report states that the market for capnography devices in Latin America, which had a net valuation of US$9.7 million in 2014, will grow at an astounding 17.5% CAGR between 2014 and 2021. The high adoption rates will essentially stem from recommendations by government bodies and esteemed anesthesia organizations regarding the mandatory inclusion of capnography devices during general anesthesia. The high impact of the U.S. healthcare system on the healthcare system of Latin America is also expected to improve the adoption of capnographs at a number of clinical setups in North America.


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