Incidence and causes of non-invasive mechanical ventilation failure after initial success

M Moretti, C Cilione, A Tampieri, C Fracchia, A Marchioni, S Nava
Thorax 2000, 55 (10): 819-25

BACKGROUND: The rate of failure of non-invasive mechanical ventilation (NIMV) in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with acute respiratory insufficiency ranges from 5% to 40%. Most of the studies report an incidence of "late failure" (after >48 hours of NIMV) of about 10-20%. The recognition of this subset of patients is critical because prolonged application of NIMV may unduly delay the time of intubation.

METHODS: In this multicentre study the primary aims were to assess the rate of "late NIMV failure" and possible associated predictive factors; secondary aims of the study were evaluation of the best ventilatory strategy in this subset of patients and their outcomes in and out of hospital. The study was performed in two respiratory intensive care units (ICUs) on patients with COPD admitted with an episode of hypercapnic respiratory failure (mean (SD) pH 7.23 (0.07), PaCO(2) 85.3 (15.8) mm Hg).

RESULTS: One hundred and thirty seven patients initially responded to NIMV in terms of objective (arterial blood gas tensions) and subjective improvement. After 8.4 (2.8) days of NIMV 31 patients (23%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 18 to 33) experienced a new episode of acute respiratory failure while still ventilated. The occurrence of "late NIMV failure" was significantly associated with functional limitations (ADL scale) before admission to the respiratory ICU, the presence of medical complications (particularly hyperglycaemia), and a lower pH on admission. Depending on their willingness or not to be intubated, the patients received invasive ventilation (n=19) or "more aggressive" (more hours/day) NIMV (n=12). Eleven (92%) of those in this latter subgroup died while in the respiratory ICU compared with 10 (53%) of the patients receiving invasive ventilation. The overall 90 day mortality was 21% and, after discharge from hospital, was similar in the "late NIMV failure" group and in patients who did not experience a second episode of acute respiratory failure.

CONCLUSIONS: The chance of COPD patients with acute respiratory failure having a second episode of acute respiratory failure after an initial (first 48 hours) successful response to NIMV is about 20%. This event is more likely to occur in patients with more severe functional and clinical disease who have more complications at the time of admission to the ICU. These patients have a very poor in-hospital prognosis, especially if NIMV is continued rather than prompt initiation of invasive ventilation.

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