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Respiratory Failure Treatment

The treatment your doctor will recommend for your respiratory failure will depend on whether it is acute or chronic. Acute respiratory failure is most often treated in a hospital, while chronic respiratory failure may be treated at home.

The main goal of treating respiratory failure is to get enough oxygen to your lungs and organs and remove carbon dioxide. Treatments for respiratory failure include the following:

  • Inhaled medications: Medicines administered either through an inhaler device or through a nebulizer machine can also open up airways, allowing your lungs to pick up oxygen and remove carbon dioxide more effectively.
     
  • Oral medications: Some oral medicines can help prevent worsening of respiratory failure, prevent worsening of lung function in the long run, and improve the capability of the lungs to work properly.
     
  • Oxygen therapy: Oxygen is administered using a mask or a pronged tube that is placed just under the nose; the prongs deliver oxygen directly into the nose. Oxygen therapy may be administered only during sleep or during exercise, or it can be administered all the time if needed. Oxygen therapy can help reduce shortness of breath and allow patients to be more active.
  • Tracheostomy: involves surgically creating a hole in the front of your neck and into your windpipe. A tube called a tracheostomy is put into the hole to improve your breathing. You may also receive oxygen therapy through a tracheostomy
     
  • Ventilator: is used when blood oxygen levels do not increase with oxygen therapy or tracheostomy alone. A ventilator is a machine that helps you breathe. It blows air into your airways and lungs.
     
  • Non-invasive Positive Pressure Ventilation (NPPV): is a noninvasive treatment that helps to keep your airways open while you sleep. NPPV involves wearing a mask that creates mild air pressure to keep the airways open.
     
  • Fluids: Having the correct amount of fluid in the body supports proper blood flow and transportation of nutrition throughout the body, without causing fluid to build up in the lungs. You may be given fluids intravenously to ensure you have just the right amount.  This is usually done if you are in the hospital.