Respiratory failure is a condition when the lungs cannot release air (oxygen) into the blood. This can cause a high carbon dioxide level or low oxygen level, or both, in blood. As a result, the body’s organs cannot get oxygen-rich blood to function. The main symptoms of respiratory failure are shortness of breath, confusion and tiredness, rapid breathing.
Treatment for respiratory failure
Treatment for respiratory failure will depend on your condition. Acute (short term) disease is usually treated at a hospital with the use of intensive care units. Some chronic respiratory conditions (if they are not severe) can be treated at home.
The goals of therapy:
- to provide the lungs and other organs with oxygen;
- to treat the underlying causes of this condition.
In some cases such methods as NPPV (Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation) and a rocking bed would be also helpful. NPPV keeps your airways open when you sleep. A special mask fits over your mouth and nose. A tube connects this device to a machine that blows air into your lungs.
A rocking bed implies a motorized platform of a mattress that rocks gently back and forth. If your head rocks up, your diaphragm and organs in your abdomen slide down, helping you inhale. If your head rocks down, your abdomen and diaphragm slide up, helping you to exhale.
Besides, your doctor may prescribe medicines to relieve discomfort.
Is respiratory failure curable?
The efficiency of treatment may vary in different patients. Thus, some people need months of intensive therapy to get off breathing machine, whereas some individuals will recover very quickly. Some patients will never breathe without the ventilator. In fact, the result entirely depends on the underlying causes of this condition. Apart from lung problems, respiratory failure can be caused by sepsis, muscle disease, heart failure, stroke, brain damage, etc.
The following methods tend to be the most efficient:
- Oxygen therapy. Small flexible plastic tubes (nasal cannula) direct oxygen into the nose. These tubes are placed either through a special mask that fits over the nose and mouth or in both nostrils. A portable oxygen container is also attached to a patient.
- Tracheostomy. Oxygen can be given through a surgically made hole in the windpipe in front of the neck. A tracheostomy (breathing tube) is placed in this hole to support breathing.
- Ventilator. The respiratory machine will help your lungs and other body’s organs get the proper amount of oxygen. The equipment is safe for a long-term treatment, so patients can use it until they feel better.
What is a ventilator (respiratory machine)?
Ventilator dependent respiratory failure is a condition when a patient cannot breathe on his/her own. A ventilator is a breathing machine that is mainly used in hospitals to support breathing of patients. These machines are used for those patients who have lost the ability to breathe independently. Ventilators provide the lungs with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the body.
A breathing machine is indispensable when using general anesthesia during surgery. Apart from that, ventilators are helpful when treating severe lung disease or other serious conditions which affect normal breathing. In other words, ventilators help people breathe easier. Unfortunately, these machines don’t treat a disease. They are used for life support only.
Some patients may need to use this respiratory equipment for a long time and even for the rest of life. In these cases, ventilator dependent respiratory failure can be treated at home.