Market Overview

Deaths from Unrecognized Opioid Induced Respiratory Depression


Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety Pushes for Increased Patient Safety in Hospitals

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) October 31, 2012

According to a presentation made at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, preventable deaths in hospitals remain a major public health hazard worldwide.

Frank J Overdyk, MD, Marieke Niesters, MD, Albert Dahan, MD, PhD, in their presentation, “Respiratory Depression: The Common Fatal Pathway for “Non Fatal” Conditions”, say:

“Preventable deaths in hospitals remain a major public health hazard worldwide. Analysis of registries for cardiopulmonary arrests (CPA) identified missed vital signs and symptoms of decompensation and spurred the development of RRT [Registered Respiratory Therapist] and MET [Medical Emergency Team] teams. Although widely adopted, their impact on overall hospital morbidity and mortality remains unclear.”

Moreover, it is hard to determine the number of deaths due to respiratory depression because, as the researchers state, “To date, there is no registry that captures preventable deaths due to OIRD [Opioid Induced Respiratory Depression]. These tragic cases are traumatic and emotional for both victims and providers, without consensus on cause, and details often sequestered behind legal firewalls. However, this set of closed legal cases typify non fatal conditions that may lead to death from unrecognized OIRD.”

Although alarm fatigue has been identified by ECRI as the top health technology hazard for 2012, causing more than 500 preventable deaths, these researchers suggest that “Alarm fatigue deaths are likely dwarfed by deaths from unrecognized opioid induced respiratory depression (OIRD) in patients who do not receive continuous electronic monitoring.”

For excerpts from their presentation and for patients who may have died from respiratory depression, please see:

The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) is an advocacy group devoted to improving patient health and safety. PPAHS members include physicians, patients, individuals, and organizations. PPAHS recently released a concise checklist that reminds caregivers of the essential steps needed to be taken to initiate Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) with a patient and to continue to assess that patient's use of PCA. For more information and to download the PCA safety checklist, please visit

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