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Respiratory Failure – Facts and Background Information

This condition represents a disease of the lungs. Our respiratory system is comprised of a gas-exchanging organ (the lungs) and a ventilatory pump (the thorax and all the respiratory muscles). When it comes to the causes of the respiratory failure, it occurs as a direct consequence of failure of one of these organs, or both at the same time. A more detailed and picturesque description looks like this – once the overall lung gas exchange is to a great extent hindered, which causes oxygen blood levels to drop or, as it is commonly referred to, hypoxemia.

Respiratory Failure – Categorization

There exist two distinct types of respiratory failure, namely respiratory failure Type 1 and respiratory failure Type 2. Respiratory Failure Type 1 occurs when there is not enough oxygen and its levels become dangerously low, whereas carbon dioxide levels remain either normal or also low.Respiratory Failure Type 2 occurs when there is not enough oxygen, whereas on the other hand the levels of carbon dioxide are heightened.

Statistics and Risks

When it comes to the overall statistics, it should be emphasized that this condition belongs to the group of a fairly frequently occurring ones. The main reason for this is that it may occur as a side effect of just about any lung disease, or multi-organ failure. Among the most common culprits for the occurrence of Respiratory Failure Type 1 are such as various diseases that bring damage to the lung tissue (e.g. pulmonary edema, pneumonia, chronic pulmonary fibrosing alveolitis and the acute respiratory distress syndrome). As far as the Respiratory Failure Type 2 is concerned, the causes include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (the most common culprit), respiratory muscle weakness (such as the Gullian-Barre syndrome), central depression of the respiratory centre (such as the OD from heroin) and deformities of the chest wall, to name but those most frequent and serious ones. The methods and techniques employed for discovering and diagnosing the respiratory failure include such as tidal volume and vital capacity, blood gas analyses and pulse oximetry. 

Treatment

As far as the treatment is concerned, in most cases because of its effectiveness the following methods and techniques are most often employed – secretion control (i.e. physiotherapy), lung infection treatment (antibiotics therapy), supplemental oxygen (oxygen mask used), constant controlling of the airways obstruction (by the employment of corticosteroids and bronchodilators), limitation of the pulmonary edema, and respiratory muscles load reduction. 

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