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Chronic Respiratory Failure

Understanding the pathology

Chronic Respiratory Failure: What is it?

It is characterized by the inability of the lungs to maintain normal levels of gases (O² and CO²) in the blood. It is most often due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) associated in most cases with smoking or occupational exposure to pollutants. But various diseases can also cause oxygen deficiency: interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, severe chronic asthma, congenital heart disease, advanced lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, etc.

People diagnosed with chronic respiratory failure find it difficult to perform everyday activities that require some physical effort, such as climbing stairs or walking. In these cases, the patient feels short of breath, excessive tiredness and irregular heartbeat.

Types of Chronic Respiratory Failure

Obstructive lung disease: results from a partial obstruction of the airways that reduces the flow of oxygen. Three lung diseases can be associated as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and emphysema.

Restrictive respiratory failure: related to a decrease in lung capacity, which can be caused by damage to the respiratory pump and changes in the respiratory center in the brain.

Know more about the Diagnoses

Learn about some of the medical procedures that make it possible to establish the diagnosis and assess the severity of the disease

  • Oximetry is the estimation of the amount of oxygen in the blood or oxygen saturation (SpO²). This test can indicate if the blood oxygen level is too low (SpO2²<88%). 
  • Arterial blood gas analysis allows you to accurately measure the amounts of O² (or PaO²) and carbon dioxide (or PaCO²) present in the blood.
  • Spirometry and pulmonary function testing: evaluates lung capacity and volumes in order to detect the type and its severity.
  • Cardiac assessment by electrocardiogram and ultrasound.

Tips to live better with chronic respiratory failure

Tips on lifestyle changes can be complemented by chest physiotherapy, in order to clear the bronchi, and by drug treatments for comfort and stabilization of the disease.

In addition, you can add some practices to your daily life that will reduce symptoms and help with the effectiveness of treatment:

  • Eliminate risk factors such as quitting smoking, avoiding aggravating factors such as second hand smoke, pollution and ensuring any medication you are taking has been prescribed by your doctor.
  • Adopt a balanced diet.
  • Practice physical activity regularly: it will help you to prevent muscle wasting and preserve your freedom and autonomy.




3.Insuficiência respiratória crônica e insuficiência respiratória aguda, E Orvoën-Frija, Pitié-Salpêtrière, 2011)

4.Insuficiência respiratória crônica m. Krempf, m. Murris, s. Pontier (Faculdade de Medicina de Toulouse)