Noninvasive monitoring of partial pressure of carbon dioxide can be accomplished indirectly with capnography (PETCO2) or with transcutaneous carbon dioxide monitoring (PTCCO2). The use of capnography has been shown to offer an advantage over pulse oximetry alone in the early detection of adverse respiratory events when supplemental oxygen is administered. Furthermore, capnography allows for the monitoring of various respiratory measures, including end-tidal carbon dioxide, respiratory rate, tidal volume, and changes in breathing patterns. Transcutaneous CO2 also closely approximates arterial CO2 values, but is not as easy to monitor for prolonged periods. The purpose of this study was to examine the usefulness of capnography and of transcutaneous carbon dioxide monitoring in patients recovering from obesity surgery at high risk of developing postoperative obstructive sleep apnea. In a prospective observational study, 64 bariatric surgery patients at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea were monitored in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU) with either capnography alone (31 patients) or capnography plus transcutaneous carbon dioxide monitoring (33 additional patients) every 3-5 minutes for the duration of their recovery. Primary endpoints included end-tidal and transcutaneous carbon dioxide, peripheral oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, pain scores, and incidence of adverse respiratory events. Although no adverse pulmonary events were observed, capnography detected several patients who experienced short periods of respiratory apnea while maintaining pulse oximetry readings within normal limits. Transcutaneous values were slow to change and averaged 4.5 ± 5.5 mm Hg (P< .05) higher than corresponding end-tidal measurements. These results indicate the capabilities of both these noninvasive techniques for postoperative monitoring. Capnography acutely monitors changes in respiration, whereas transcutaneous monitoring more accurately reflects arterial CO2 levels.

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