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Capnography To Monitor Ventilation And Carbon Dioxide Levels For Patients Under Anesthesia Or Conscious Sedation

Physicians at (BMC) have developed a training for about how to effectively use to monitor ventilation and for patients under anesthesia or conscious sedation. This is the sixth published in the New England Journal of Medicine‘s Videos in Clinical Medicine section produced by BMC. It highlights the importance of using capnography to increase patient safety.

Capnography, which graphically monitors carbon dioxide concentration and measures ventilation and respiration, is utilized in operating rooms, intensive care units and other hospital areas where patients are under anesthesia or receiving sedation. It is being used more frequently because it lets providers know that a patient is breathing effectively.

The video is a useful learning tool for providers familiar with capnography as well as those not familiar with the technology. Utilizing real and simulated patients in a variety of clinical environments, the video demonstrates how to effectively use and manage the equipment. Also included in the video are detailed digital animations of the respiratory and gas exchange process.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists is among several organizations recommending that capnography use be expanded to other clinical areas for patients who are under moderate sedation, eg. patients undergoing a colonoscopy. Capnography also is being used in conjunction with pulse oximeters, which are small, non-invasive sensors placed on a patient’s finger or ear to monitor their blood oxygen levels, to capture a more comprehensive picture of respiratory status.

“Using capnography and pulse oximetry technologies together is a powerful approach to monitor the ventilation and gas exchange of patients,” said Rafael Ortega, MD, an anesthesiologist at BMC who led the production of the video and served as the lead author of the accompanying paper. “This video provides best practices for health care providers on how to accurately utilize this technology in a variety of clinical settings.”


Ortega is vice chairman of academic affairs of the department of anesthesiology and associate dean of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). Chris Connor, MD, PhD, director of research for the department of anesthesiology at BMC and assistant professor of biomedical engineering and anesthesiology at BU; Alex Kotov, MD, anesthesiologist at BMC; Kunal Patel, MD, anesthesiologist BMC; and Sora Kim, MD, a former BUSM medical student, collaborated on the video.
Boston University Medical Center