Noninvasive ventilation for acute respiratory failure: a prospective randomised placebo-controlled trial

F Thys, J Roeseler, M Reynaert, G Liistro, D O Rodenstein
European Respiratory Journal 2002, 20 (3): 545-55
The aim of the present study was to clarify whether the known effects of noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (NPPV) in patients with respiratory failure are real or due to placebo effects and whether early application of NPPV in the emergency department leads to rapid improvement of the patients condition and outcome. A prospective randomised placebo-controlled study was conducted in 20 patients with severe acute respiratory failure (ARF) secondary to an acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or acute pulmonary oedema, not improving under conventional medical therapy and on the edge of intubation. Patients received either conventional medical therapy plus two-level NPPV (hi-level NPPV) or conventional medical therapy plus "placebo" NPPV. The main outcome measures involved the need for endotracheal intubation in the bi-level NPPV arm and in the placebo arm after crossing over to active NPPV. Morbidity, length of stay, mortality and the effect of the ventilatory mode on clinical, arterial-blood gas parameters, and the sternocleidomastoid muscles electromyogram (EMG) activity were also measured. The 10 patients in the active NPPV group rapidly improved and none needed intubation. Placebo NPPV resulted in no change in the clinical condition of patients that continued to worsen and the 10 patients were crossed over to active NPPV. Three patients were intubated. No differences in terms of morbidity, length of stay or mortality between the two groups were observed. Active NPPV (but not placebo NPPV) led to a rapid and significant improvement in the clinical parameters, pH and the carbon dioxide tension in arterial blood and to a decrease in respiratory frequency and sternocleidomastoid EMG activity. Early application of bi-level noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation in patients with severe acute respiratory failure, due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and acute pulmonary oedema, leads to a rapid improvement in clinical status and blood gases. Noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation had no placebo effect.

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