Opioid Safety, Respiratory Compromise

Tools and Recommendations for Assessing the Risk of Over-Sedation and Respiratory Depression

Although there are benefits to the use of opioids for the management of pain, particularly with patients post-operatively, there are risks of over-sedation and respiratory depression, as The Joint Commission cautions in its Sentinel Event Alert “Safe use of opioids in hospitals”:

While opioid use is generally safe for most patients, opioid analgesics may be associated with adverse effects, the most serious effect being respiratory depression, which is generally preceded by sedation.

Assessing which patients are at risk of developing opioid-induced respiratory depression (OIRD) would be of benefit, as treatments could be altered or tailored to the particular patient to reduce the risk of opioid-related adverse events.

The Michigan Opioid Safety Score (MOSS) was “developed to incorporate patient risk, respiratory rate, and sedation into one bedside score that could be used to improve patient safety during inpatient opioid therapy. Scoring is based on a summation of risk data with objective bedside measures of over-sedation trumping a patient’s subjective reports of pain.” Read More