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INTRODUCTION

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HIGH ALERT

meperidine (me-per-i-deen)

Demerol

OTHER NAMES:

Pethidine

Classification

Therapeutic: opioid analgesics

Pharmacologic: opioid agonists

Schedule II

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Indications
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Moderate or severe pain (alone or with nonopioid agents). Anesthesia adjunct, analgesic during labor, preoperative sedation. Unlabeled Use: Rigors.

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Action
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Binds to opiate receptors in the CNS. Alters the perception of and response to painful stimuli, while producing generalized CNS depression. Therapeutic Effects: Decrease in severity of pain.

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Adverse Reactions/Side Effects
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CNS: SEIZURES, confusion, sedation, dysphoria, euphoria, floating feeling, hallucinations, headache, unusual dreams. EENT: blurred vision, diplopia, miosis. Resp: respiratory depression. CV: hypotension, bradycardia. GI: constipation, nausea, vomiting. GU: urinary retention. Derm: flushing, sweating. Misc: physical dependence, psychologic dependence, tolerance.

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PHYSICAL THERAPY IMPLICATIONS

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Examination and Evaluation
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  • Be alert for new seizures or increased seizure activity, especially at the onset of drug treatment. Document the number, duration, and severity of seizures, and report these findings immediately to the physician.

  • Assess symptoms of respiratory depression, including decreased respiratory rate, confusion, bluish color of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis), and difficult, labored breathing (dyspnea). Monitor pulse oximetry and perform pulmonary function tests (See Appendix I) to quantify suspected changes in ventilation and respiratory function. Excessive respiratory depression requires emergency care.

  • Be alert for excessive sedation or changes in mood and behavior (euphoria, dysphoria, confusion, hallucinations). Notify physician or nurse immediately if patient is unconscious or extremely difficult to arouse.

  • Use appropriate pain scales (visual analogue scales, others) to document whether this drug is successful in helping manage the patient's pain.

  • Assess blood pressure periodically and compare to normal values (See Appendix F). Report low blood pressure (hypotension), especially if patient experiences dizziness, fainting, or other symptoms.

  • Assess heart rate, ECG, and heart sounds, especially during exercise (See Appendices G, H). Report slow heart rate (bradycardia) or symptoms of other arrhythmias, including palpitations, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fainting, and fatigue/weakness.

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Interventions
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  • Implement appropriate manual therapy techniques, physical agents, and therapeutic exercises to reduce pain and help wean patient off opioid analgesics as soon as possible.

  • Because of the risk of respiratory depression, bradycardia, and hypotension, use caution during aerobic exercise and other forms of therapeutic exercise. Assess exercise tolerance frequently (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, fatigue levels), and terminate exercise immediately if any untoward responses occur (See Appendix L).

  • Help patient explore other nonpharmacologic methods to reduce chronic pain, such as relaxation techniques, exercise, counseling, and so forth.

  • Guard against falls and trauma (hip fractures, head injury). Implement fall prevention strategies (See Appendix E), especially if patient exhibits sedation, dizziness, or blurred vision.

  • To minimize orthostatic hypotension, patient should move slowly when assuming a more upright position.

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