5 things to know about capnography and respiratory distress

Understand how monitoring end-tidal carbon dioxide helps assess and treat a patient in respiratory distress Respiratory distress is one of the most common patient complaints. Waveform capnography is a valuable tool to determine the cause and severity of respiratory distress, to guide treatment decisions, and to monitor the patient’s response to treatment. Here are five things you should know about capnography and respiratory distress: Accurate diagnosis of the cause of respiratory distress is critical, but can be difficult when the patient has difficulty speaking or multiple chronic respiratory conditions. Diminished breath sounds, wheezes, and crackles can be caused by multiple conditions, including asthma, COPD, CHF and pneumonia. When added to a thorough history and physical exam, waveform capnography is a valuable assessment tool. The shape of the capnography waveform represents air movement through the lungs, similar to how an ECG tracing represents electrical activity in the heart. Capnography is measured with an adapter between the bag-valve device and the mask, or with nasal prongs that sample exhaled air from the mouth and nose. The waveform begins at baseline when exha...