What is it?

Chronic respiratory failure refers to an ongoing condition in which the lungs deliver oxygen to the tissues. It is usually caused due to narrowing and damage to the airways, resulting in decrease in gas exchange. These conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, complicated pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, spinal cord injuries, stroke, muscular dystrophy, ALS, chest injury, drugs, alcohol and smoking. Low blood oxygen levels cause hypoxemic respiratory failure. High carbon dioxide levels cause hypercapnic respiratory failure.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing mucus, wheezing, cyanosis of the fingernails, lips or skin, rapid breathing, fatigue, anxiety, confusion, and headache.


Diagnosis is based upon findings from medical history and physical examination. Further evaluation may include pulse oximetry, blood tests for gas test, imaging tests, and bronchoscopy.


Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include oxygen therapy, tracheostomy, and mechanical ventilation.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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