Opioid Safety, Patient Safety, Patient Stories

Are Patients Receiving Opioids Safer Today Than 6 Years Ago?

Six years ago on July 27, 2011, I posted the first article on a free WordPress blog for the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety. It was titled “Is it possible to survive 96-minutes without a heart beat?”. Howard Snitzer, a man who suffered a heart attack survived after two volunteer paramedics responded and began a 96-minute CPR marathon. The ordeal involved 20 others, who took turns pumping his chest. This life-saving feat was only possible with the use of capnography readings, which told the volunteer paramedics that Howard was still alive and that they needed to continue their efforts.

Little would I know that that article would lead to an invitation by the University of Notre Dame and the beginnings of a 6-year friendship with the parents of Amanda Abbiehl. Amanda was admitted to hospital for “severe strep throat.” Read More

Opioid Safety, Patient Stories, Respiratory Compromise

Remembering Amanda: 7 Years After An Opioid-Related Death

This weekend marked the 7th anniversary of Amanda Abbiehl’s tragic death. Her story continues to remind us of the need for continuous electronic monitoring for all patients receiving opioids.

Amanda was 18-years-old when she was admitted to hospital for a severe case of strep throat. To help her manage the pain, she was placed on a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump. The next morning, she was found unresponsive and died. Though PCA pumps are designed to deliver an exact dosage of opioid – in Amanda’s case, hydromorphone – getting the ‘right’ dosage is not a simple task. Too high a dosage can lead to respiratory depression, sometimes in minutes. Read More

Opioid Safety, Position Statement, Respiratory Compromise

Patients Receiving Opioids Must Be Monitored With Continuous Electronic Monitoring PPAHS Position Statement on Continuous Monitoring

The following is a position statement published by PPAHS. If you would prefer to view our statement as a PDF, please click here.

Much of the public attention has been focused on the harm caused by prescription use and abuse of opioids. However, there is another facet that must be focused on: opioid-induced respiratory depression in clinical settings. This includes patients undergoing moderate and conscious sedation, or recovering from procedures and managing pain using a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump, particularly those during the postoperative period. Read More

Hospital Acquired Conditions, Opioid Safety, Respiratory Compromise

Anesthesiology Standards Shouldn’t be Different in Hospital and Outpatient Settings

Written by Lynn Razzano RN, MSN, ONC-C (Clinical Nurse Consultant, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety).

When preventable medical errors occur, one of the very first questions asked by patients, families, the legal system, the press, and the public is: “were appropriate care standards met?”. As a professional Registered Nurse, I look at this question from a quality and patient safety perspective to ask what could have been done differently? What are the best practice medical standards, and why are they not applied across the US health care systems? How applicable should the medical standard of care be? And how do we, as clinicians and patient advocates, define the best practice standard of care?

The reality is that the definition of best practice and standard of care differs between acute care hospital settings and outpatient surgery centers. And, even then, the standard of care being applied by the ambulatory surgical center, anesthesiologist and the gastroenterologist may not be the same. Read More

Opioid Safety, Patient Stories, Respiratory Compromise

Tyler’s Story: A Deadly PCA Medical Error

Tyler was 18-years old when he was admitted to hospital for a pain in his chest.

It was a collapsed lung – the second time he had experienced one that year, and a condition that tall, young, slim males like Tyler can be prone to. To permanently correct the problem, Tyler underwent a procedure called pleurodesis, a common procedure to permanently prevent his lung from collapsing again. Upon the successful completion of the surgery, Tyler’s mother, Victoria Ireland said that she “breathed a sigh of relief”. Her son was going to be OK; all he needed to do was recover. Read More

Hospital Acquired Conditions, Opioid Safety, Respiratory Compromise

New Report on Preventing Respiratory Compromise in Vulnerable Patients

The Respiratory Compromise Institute (RCI) has recently published a new report titled “Respiratory Compromise as a New Paradigm for the Care of Vulnerable Hospitalized Patients”. PPAHS is a member of RCI, along with other health organizations such as the Society of Hospital Medicine, American Association for Respiratory Care, and CHEST/American College of Chest Physicians. Read More

Hospital Acquired Conditions, Opioid Safety, Patient Safety, Respiratory Compromise

Nine Minutes to Improving Opioid Safety: PPAHS Releases Patient Safety Video

The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) has released a YouTube video which discusses in nine minutes how to improve opioid safety. The video features highlights from over 10 hours of in-depth interviews released by PPAHS in 2016; altogether, the podcast series has generated over 130,000 cumulative views on YouTube. The podcast series brings together physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists discussing how they have improved opioid safety in their hospitals.

According to Michael Wong, JD, Founder and Executive Director of PPAHS:

“In just nine minutes, the video summarizes experiences of clinicians in improving opioid safety in their hospital or healthcare facility, and reminds us of the tragic consequences of adverse events and deaths that may ensue if clinicians and healthcare executives are not proactive in promoting safety. We hope that the video will energize quality improvement and patient safety teams to strive to reduce adverse events and deaths related to opioid use.”

The opioid epidemic was one of the most heavily-covered, and hotly-debated, topic in patient safety covered in 2016. This dialogue has been mostly centered around the effects of ‘street’ use and abuse of prescription painkillers. In contrast, the PPAHS podcast series aims to highlight the preventable harm of opioid-induced respiratory depression during hospital procedures. Read More

Patient Safety

SONORIA and PPAHS Announce Alliance to Improve Clinical Collaboration

The Society for Non OR Intervention and Anesthesia (SONORIA) and the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) are pleased to announce their new alliance focused on promoting safety and optimized outcomes for patients undergoing procedures outside of the Operating Room. Wendy Gross MD, President of SONORIA and Michael Wong JD, CEO and Executive Director of PPAHS have each agreed to serve as advisors to their respective organization’s Boards. Read More

Opioid Safety, Practices & Tips, Respiratory Compromise

Minnesota RTs Help Implement Continuous Capnography Program

peggy lange

Peggy Lange, BA, RRT (RT Department Director, St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, MN)

A recent article published by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) has highlighted how respiratory therapists (RT) can play an integral role in using capnography to detect the signs of respiratory depression.  The post focuses on the experiences of Peggy Lange, BA, RRT (RT Department Director, St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, MN).

Over a three month period, St. Cloud Hospital ran a pilot program to test the effectiveness of continuous capnography monitoring Center for Surgical Care, PACU, surgical care units, interventional radiology, electrophysiology lab, and emergency trauma center.  The trial was successful, proving the monitors gave an early alert to the signs of respiratory distress, as well as resolving issues caused by nuisance alarms – particularly with patients experiencing sleep apnea or periods of hyperventilation.  As a result, continuous capnography monitoring was implemented hospital-wide. Read More

Opioid Safety, Patient Stories, Respiratory Compromise

Opioid Deaths Are (Still) Preventable: Remembering Leah


Leah walked into a Los Angeles hospital a healthy, 11-year old girl.  She needed an elective surgery to repair a condition called pectus carinatum.  Despite delays, the surgery went well, but Leah was in considerable pain; to manage it, she was given escalating doses of fentanyl, along with Ativan.  

Her mother, Lenore Alexander, was concerned by Leah’s increasing unresponsiveness – but was assured by staff that Leah would be ready to walk out of the hospital in the morning.  Exhausted, Lenore took a nap by her daughter’s bedside; it would be the last time Leah was seen alive.  Lenore woke to find Leah dead in bed.

In 2012, Lenore wrote an article for PPAHS asking if continuous monitoring would have saved her daughter, Leah.  The answer, then, was a resounding “yes”.  During her hospital stay, Leah received only infrequent spot checks from staff to confirm her condition despite the administration of powerful opioids.  If only she were monitored with capnography and pulse oximetry – we would not have another tragic story to tell.

Now, on the 14th anniversary of Leah’s death, we ask the same question: would continous monitoring have saved Leah’s life?   Read More