Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Non-invasive mechanical ventilation for acute respiratory failure.

British Medical Journal 1990; 300 doi: (Published 10 February 1990) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1990;300:358
  1. M W Elliott,
  2. M H Steven,
  3. G D Phillips,
  4. M A Branthwaite
  1. Department of Thoracic Medicine, Brompton Hospital, London.


    The value of mechanical ventilation using intermittent positive pressure ventilation delivered non-invasively by nasal mask was assessed in six patients with life threatening exacerbations of chronic respiratory disease. Median (range) arterial oxygen and carbon dioxide tensions were 4.4 (3.5-7.2) kPa and 8.7 (5.5-10.9) kPa respectively, with four patients breathing air and two controlled concentrations of oxygen. The arterial oxygen tension increased with mechanical ventilation to a median (range) of 8.7 (8.0-12.6) kPa and the carbon dioxide tension fell to 8.2 (6.5-9.2) kPa. Four patients discharged after a median of 10 (8-17) days in hospital were well five to 22 months later. One died at four days of worsening sputum retention and another after five weeks using the ventilator for 12-16 hours each day while awaiting heart-lung transplantation. This technique of mechanical ventilation avoids endotracheal intubation and can be used intermittently. Hypercapnic respiratory failure can be relieved in patients with either restrictive or obstructive lung disease in whom controlled oxygen treatment results in unacceptable hypercapnia. Respiratory assistance can be tailored to individual need and undertaken without conventional intensive care facilities.