How is respiratory failure treated?
Treatment for respiratory failure begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. The goals of treatment for respiratory failure are to increase oxygenation and improve ventilation. Treatment depends on the severity of the respiratory failure and the cause. Acute respiratory failure treatment will address the underlying cause and include ventilation and oxygenation as needed. Treatment for chronic respiratory failure may be administered at home. Exacerbation of chronic respiratory failure by infection may require hospitalization, and treatment may include oxygenation and ventilator support. Bronchodilators may improve airway patency.
Respiratory failure treatment options
Multiple options are available for the treatment of respiratory failure. Examples include:
- Antibiotics for respiratory infections
- Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)
- Bronchodilators, including anticholinergics, such as tiotropium (Spiriva), or beta agonists, such as albuterol (Proventil)
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
- Inhaled steroid medications to decrease inflammation
- Lung transplant, in rare cases
- Mechanical ventilation, if oxygen therapy if not sufficient to increase blood oxygen levels
- Oxygen therapy to increase blood oxygen levels
- Tracheostomy, a hole made in the front of the neck to help you breathe
What are the potential complications of respiratory failure?
Complications of untreated respiratory failure can be serious, even life threatening in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of respiratory failure include:
- Heart failure
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Organ failure or dysfunction
- Oxygen toxicity
- Permanent lung damage
- Respiratory arrest
- Respiratory acidosis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001154/.
- What is respiratory failure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/rf/rf_whatis.html.
- Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.
What is respiratory failure?
Respiratory failure is the inability of the respiratory system to adequately supply fresh oxygen or remove carbon dioxide, resulting in low blood oxygen or high blood carbon dioxide levels, respectively. Multiple conditions can cause one or both of these problems. Acute or sudden respiratory failure can happen as the result of trauma, injury, drug or alcohol overdose, or inhalation of carb... Read more about respiratory failureintroduction
What are the symptoms of respiratory failure?
Respiratory failure causes insufficient oxygenation or ventilation and can cause a number of symptoms, which can be severe.
Common symptoms of respiratory failureRespiratory failure is accompanied by a number of symptoms including:
- Bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails
- Confusion or loss of consciousness
- Read more about respiratory failuresymptoms
What causes respiratory failure?
Respiratory failure is the inability of the respiratory system to supply oxygen or remove carbon dioxide, resulting in low blood oxygen or high blood carbon dioxide levels. Multiple conditions can cause one or both of these problems. Respiratory failure can transpire quickly as the result of trauma, injury, drug or alcohol overdose, or inhalation of carbon monoxide. Chronic, or long-term, respi... Read more about respiratory failurecauses