November marks National COPD Awareness Month, an annual observance aimed at increasing public awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). By engaging patients, clinicians and respiratory health organizations to communicate about COPD and support awareness events, the observance helps to enhance recognition of and drive education about the disease. One of the member societies of the Respiratory Compromise Institute, the American Association for Respiratory Care, is among the many organizations working to increase awareness about COPD this month.

COPD, a progressive life-threatening lung disease that causes breathlessness, is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Globally, it is estimated that more than three million people died of the disease in 2015, accounting for five percent of all deaths in that year. Not only is COPD itself a life-threatening disease, but it is also a risk factor for respiratory compromise, a potentially lethal condition impacting patients across the care continuum.

Respiratory compromise is a gradual, sometimes subtle imbalance in a person’s breathing response that encompasses respiratory failure and arrest. The condition can occur in nearly any clinical setting, including the home. Patients who undergo anesthesia for medical procedures or recover from surgery may be at particular risk for respiratory compromise, dramatically increasing the likelihood of adverse outcomes and cost of patient care. The condition is a leading patient safety issue and people on the general care floor with respiratory compromise are 29 times more likely to die.

Despite the dangers posed by respiratory compromise, respiratory failure resulting from the condition is potentially avoidable in many cases. For example, detection, mitigation and prevention of respiratory compromise can be aided with the use of patient monitoring technologies, including capnography. Capnography measures exhaled levels of carbon dioxide and is a commonly known, but underutilized, monitoring technology.

Individuals with COPD are just one kind of patient at increased risk of respiratory compromise who may benefit from monitoring with capnography. Older patients are also at risk, as are individuals with obesity, sleep apnea and asthma. -9

For National COPD Awareness Month, speak to those you know with COPD. Talk to them about how they may be at risk for respiratory compromise, that the condition can be prevented, and that addressing it with their healthcare providers is important.

To learn more about respiratory compromise, view the following resources: