A patient who has had abdominal surgery has been receiving morphine sulfate via a patient-con-
trolled analgesia (PCA) pump. The nurse assesses the patient and notes that the patient’s pupils are dilated and
that the patient is drowsy and lethargic. The patient’s heart rate is 84 beats per minute, the respiratory rate is 10
breaths per minute, and the blood pressure is 90/50 mm Hg. What will the nurse do?
Discuss possible opiate dependence with the patient’s provider.
Encourage the patient to turn over and cough and take deep breaths.
Note the effectiveness of the analgesia in the patient’s chart.
Prepare to administer naloxone and possibly ventilatory support.
Opioid toxicity is characterized by coma, respiratory depression, and pinpoint pupils. Although pupils are con-
stricted initially, they may dilate as hypoxia progresses, which also causes blood pressure to drop. This patient
has a respiratory rate of fewer than 12 breaths per minute, dilated pupils, and low blood pressure; the patient
also is showing signs of central nervous system (CNS) depression. The nurse should prepare to give naloxone
and should watch the patient closely for respiratory collapse. Patients with opioid dependence show withdrawal
symptoms when the drug is discontinued. When postoperative patients have adequate analgesia without serious
side effects, encouraging patients to turn, cough, and breathe deeply is appropriate. This patient is probably rel-
atively pain free, but providing emergency treatment is the priority.
A patient with cancer has been taking an opioid analgesic four times daily for several months
and reports needing increased doses for pain. What will the nurse tell the patient?
PRN dosing of the drug may be more effective.
The risk of respiratory depression increases over time.
The patient should discuss increasing the dose with the provider.
The patient should request the addition of a benzodiazepine to augment pain relief.
This patient is developing tolerance, which occurs over time and is evidenced by the need for a larger dose to
produce the effect formerly produced by a smaller dose. This patient should be encouraged to request an in-
creased dose. PRN dosing is less effective than scheduled, around-the-clock dosing. The risk of respiratory de-
pression decreases over time as patients develop tolerance to this effect. Benzodiazepines are CNS depressants
and should not be given with opioids, as they increase the risk of oversedation.
A woman in labor receives meperidine (Demerol) for pain. The nurse caring for the infant will
observe the infant closely for:
excessive crying and sneezing.