Respiratory failure is a medical condition where the blood’s oxygen level is lower than the normal level or has a higher than normal level of carbon dioxide. In some cases, both these problems may also occur at the same time. As you breathe, oxygen enters your lungs from where it enters your blood. Your blood then carries oxygen to the different organs in your body. The oxygen-rich blood is crucial for your organs like the heart and brain to work at their optimal best. The second function of breathing is removing carbon dioxide in your blood. A higher than normal presence of carbon dioxide in your blood is harmful to your organs. This is why it is essential to seek immediate treatment in case of respiratory failure.
Causes Behind Respiratory Failure
Several medical conditions have been discovered to cause respiratory failure among patients. Any type of medical ailment that causes you to have some form of difficulty in breathing may lead to respiratory failure if left untreated. These conditions tend to affect your nerves, muscles, tissue, or bones that help you breathe. Some medical conditions like COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, Covid-19 may even affect your lungs leading to respiratory failure. Some other ailments that lead to respiratory failure include spinal cord injuries, stroke, muscular dystrophy, scoliosis, chest injury, drug overdose, and smoke inhalation. According to the respiratory failure treatment guidelines, you need to get started on treatment immediately to prevent further complications or even death in extreme cases.
Symptoms Of Respiratory Failure
The symptoms of this medical condition often depend on the cause behind the condition as well the level of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood. Low oxygen blood levels will exhibit symptoms like shortness of breath and bluish lips, skins, and fingernails, while high carbon dioxide levels exhibit symptoms like confusion and rapid breathing. In some cases, people with respiratory failure may become very sleepy and even lose consciousness in extreme situations. They may also have an irregular heartbeat. If you or your loved ones experience these symptoms reach out for a Pulmonologist Online Consultation immediately.
Respiratory Failure Diagnosis
Your doctor will diagnose the respiratory failure and will look for the following signs during the physical exam:
- Abnormal sounds in your lungs
- Irregular heartbeat
- Bluish color in your lips, skin, and fingernails
The doctor may also use a pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen level in your blood. Once a respiratory failure has been diagnosed, and you are started on the respiratory failure treatment, the doctor will look for what caused the failure. This may involve further tests like chest x-ray and EKGs.
Respiratory Failure Treatment Options
According to the respiratory failure treatment guidelines, the treatment involves identifying underlying conditions and also determining whether you suffer from acute or chronic respiratory failure. You will require immediate hospitalization in an ICU in case of Acute respiratory failure, whereas you can be treated at home depending on the severity in case of chronic respiratory failure. Let’s take a look at some of the treatment plans for respiratory failure prevention:
This treatment plan involves administering oxygen via a prolonged tube placed under the nose or a mask over the nose. Oxygen therapy needs to be administered during exercise or sleep, but it may also be administered all the time if required. This treatment method helps patients overcome shortness of breath and also be more active.
This treatment method involves inserting a tube called tracheostomy through a hole in the front of your neck to help you breathe better. In some cases, oxygen therapy is also administered through a tracheostomy.
If oxygen therapy and tracheostomy fail to improve the patient’s oxygen level, the doctor will recommend a ventilator. This machine will help the patient to get enough oxygen till they can breathe on their own. The different types of ventilator support include Conventional mechanical ventilation (CVM), Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NVVP), Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP). The pulmonologist will decide which is the best ventilation method based on the severity of the condition.
In case the other respiratory failure prevention methods have failed, your doctor may recommend lung transplantation.
This treatment involves turning the patient on to their stomach to improve oxygen levels in the blood. However, it is a complicated method and some patients are too weak for this treatment method.
Doctors also prescribe medications known as diuretics to increase urination so that the excess fluid in the body is removed. This helps prevent fluid build-up in the lungs and allows the patient to breathe better. This is a delicate method since too much fluid removal will lower blood pressure and cause kidney problems.
With timely intervention, patients recover gradually after respiratory failure treatment. Usually, patients show signs of improvement from seven to fourteen days, depending on the severity of the respiratory failure. If the patient has been placed on ventilator support, it will take weeks for the patient to recover completely. In most cases, doctors start with minor treatment methods and then move on to ventilator support or surgery depending on the severity of the condition. Regardless of which treatment plan is in place, the patient needs to build up their lung function with the right medication and adequate rest.
Respiratory failure patients benefit from a team of experts that includes pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, and imaging experts. This collaboration makes sure that the patient is put on the best respiratory failure prevention plan.
People who have lung disease or conditions that affect bones, muscles, tissues, or nerves involved in breathing are at a high risk of developing respiratory failure. Studies have shown the recovery rate among respiratory failure patients decreases with age as well as the presence of other disorders or diseases. If you fall in this category and exhibit the symptoms of respiratory failure mentioned earlier, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Early intervention is always the best way to improve your chances of recovery from respiratory failure according to recent statistics.