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Noninvasive ventilation for COPD patients

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and a major economic burden on healthcare systems. Treatment of COPD with noninvasive ventilation (NIV) has been shown to be effective in treating acute exacerbations of COPD, assisting pulmonary rehabilitation in COPD patients, and providing benefits in managing chronic hypercapnic COPD patients.

NIV in management of acute exacerbation of COPD

There is strong evidence recommending NIV in the management of acute respiratory failure associated with COPD exacerbations. The 2011 GOLD guidelines1 state that NIV improves respiratory acidosis, and decreases respiratory rate, severity of breathlessness including complications such as ventilator associated pneumonia, and length of hospital stay are reduced, more importantly reduces mortality and intubation rate.

In a Chochrane systematic review of studies which have compared NIV with standard care, NIV was associated with lower mortality, reduced need for intubation, and greater improvements in pH, PaCO2, and respiratory rate after 1 hour. NIV also resulted in fewer complications and reduced hospital stay2.

Continued use of NIV after hospitalisation due to COPD exacerbations has also been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent exacerbations and clinical worsening3,4. A recent review found that using NIV post COPD acute exacerbation led improved event-free survival rates and reduced hospital admissions5.

NIV in Pulmonary Rehabilitation

The GOLD Guidelines stated that all COPD patients could benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation and maintenance of physical activity1. NIV during pulmonary rehabilitation can:

  • Improve oxygenation and gas exchange6,8
  • Increase exercise intensity and duration6,7
  • Decrease dyspnoea6
  • Improve several measures of health-related quality of life8

NIV in the management of stable COPD

The GOLD guidelines recommend that a combination of NIV and long term oxygen therapy may be beneficial in selected COPD patients, particularly those with hypercapnic COPD1. There is evidence that NIV in conjunction with other therapies in stable hypercapnic patients may improve:

  • Blood gases and lung function9,10,11,14
  • Dyspnea9,10
  • Hospital ICU admissions9
  • Quality of life9,10,11

The effect of NIV on mortality in COPD patients is still unclear. However smaller clinical trials have shown that NIV may improve survival rates12. In particular, high inspiratory pressures (also known as high intensity NIV) is associated with favourable long term outcomes in patients13,14.

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