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Noninvasive Ventilation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (NPPV) should be considered a standard of care to treat COPD exacerbations in selected patients, because NPPV markedly reduces the need for intubation and improves outcomes, including lowering complication and mortality rates and shortening hospital stay. Weaker evidence indicates that NPPV is beneficial for COPD patients suffering respiratory failure precipitated by superimposed pneumonia or postoperative complications, to allow earlier extubation, to avoid re-intubation in patients who fail extubation, or to assist do-not-intubate patients. NPPV patient-selection guidelines help to identify patients who need ventilatory assistance and exclude patients who are too ill to safely use NPPV. Predictors of success with NPPV for COPD exacerbations have been identified and include patient cooperativeness, ability to protect the airway, acuteness of illness not too severe, and a good initial response (within first 1–2 h of NPPV). In applying NPPV, the clinician must pay attention to patient comfort, mask fit and air leak, patient-ventilator synchrony, sternocleidomastoid muscle activity, vital signs, hours of NPPV use, problems with patient adaptation to NPPV (eg, nasal congestion, dryness, gastric insufflation, conjunctival irritation, inability to sleep), symptoms (eg, dyspnea, fatigue, morning headache, hypersomnolence), and gas exchange while awake and asleep. For severe stable COPD, preliminary evidence suggests that NPPV might improve daytime and nocturnal gas exchange, increase sleep duration, improve quality of life, and possibly reduce the need for hospitalization, but further study is needed. There is consensus, but without strong supportive evidence, that COPD patients who have substantial daytime hypercapnia and superimposed nocturnal hypoventilation are the most likely to benefit from NPPV. Adherence to NPPV is problematic among patients with severe stable COPD.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Division, Tufts-New England Medical Center, 750 Washington Street, #257, Boston MA 02111;, Email: nhill@tufts-nemc.org

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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