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Life Support For Lung Failure


Many lung conditions in the end stage require life support for lung failure.

This is a condition where the lung no longer can “deliver the goods”: in other words, not enough oxygen gets into the lungs and/or not enough carbon dioxide leaves the lungs at the same time. This results in “hypoxemia” (lack of oxygen in the blood stream) or “hypercapnia” (too much carbon dioxide in the blood stream).

The causes can be complex. For instance, an inability to breathe when the breathing muscles are weak in the late stages of muscular dystrophy leads to respiratory failure. On the other hand in the end stages of COPD, emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis respiratory failure is often also found. In these cases though it is because the lung tissue can no longer transport the gases(O2 and CO2) across the membranes of the air sacs.

Life support is essential for severe lung disease

Life support is essential for severe lung disease

The diffusion back and forth into and from the blood stream is impaired. However, a pneumothorax from a gunshot wound can get a patient into respiratory failure with a coma very quickly and life support with intubation and mechanical ventilation is needed until the patient eventually recovers.

Depending on whether the patient can still breathe on his own, various kinds of mechanical assistance can be given: CPAP, PPV, PEEP or BiPAP (thanks to for this link). These are abbreviations of various machine assisted breathing possibilities. These links will explain more to those who would like more information. You may also want to search specific items on Google.



1. Noble: Textbook of Primary Care Medicine, 3rd ed., Copyright © 2001 Mosby, Inc.

2. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program. Expert Panel Report II. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 1997.

3. Rakel: Conn’s Current Therapy 2002, 54th ed., Copyright © 2002 W. B. Saunders Company

4. Murray & Nadel: Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 3rd ed., Copyright © 2000 W. B. Saunders Company

5. Behrman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 16th ed., Copyright © 2000 W. B. Saunders Company

6. Merck Manual:Pulmonary disorders (thanks to for this link).

7. Goldman: Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 21st ed., Copyright © 2000 W. B. Saunders Company

8. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment, 2004 ed., Copyright © 2004 Mosby, Inc.

9. Rakel: Conn’s Current Therapy 2004, 56th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier

Last modified: November 10, 2014

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.