Respiratory failure is a medical emergency that occurs due to serious disorders of the respiratory system, causing the body to lack oxygen. This condition requires immediate medical attention. If not treated immediately, respiratory failure can lead to organ damage and even death.
Respiratory failure occurs when the respiratory system is unable to carry out its function of delivering oxygen to the blood and organs of the body, then removing carbon dioxide from the blood.
Eventually the body will experience a lack of oxygen (hypoxia) so that almost all organs of the body, such as the lungs, heart, and brain, cannot function properly.
Meanwhile, the respiratory system also plays a role in removing carbon dioxide in the blood. When there is respiratory failure, carbon dioxide can accumulate and turn into toxins in the blood, causing tissue and organ damage.
Causes of Breathing Failure
Respiratory failure can be caused by many things, including:
Lung diseases, such as severe asthma attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary edema, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Disorders of the brain or nerves that regulate respiratory function, such as severe head injury, stroke, brain tumor, brain herniation, spinal cord disorders, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Certain diseases or conditions, such as shock, heavy bleeding, sepsis, electrolyte disturbances, and acid-base balance disorders (acidosis and alkalosis).
Injury to the muscles and bones of the breast or spine, so that the respiratory system is disturbed.
Acute lung injury, for example from inhaling smoke or harmful chemicals that can injure the lungs. Respiratory failure can also occur due to leaky lungs.
Side effects of drugs, such as opioid painkillers and sedatives.
In addition, several other conditions, such as poisoning, drug overdose, sleep apnea (sleep apnea), and diabetic ketoacidosis, can also cause respiratory failure.
Symptoms of Breathing Failure
When a person experiences respiratory failure, several signs and symptoms may occur, including:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, making it difficult to speak.
Breath sounds, such as wheezing or stridor.
Pale skin and sweating a lot.
Restless and dazed.
Blueness of the fingers or lips (cyanosis).
Loss of consciousness or fainting.
If there is shortness of breath accompanied by some of the signs and symptoms above, then a person needs to be immediately taken to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. This could be a sign of respiratory failure that needs immediate examination and treatment from a doctor.
Breathing Failure Treatment You Need to Know
A person who experiences respiratory failure needs to be treated immediately by a doctor in the hospital emergency room. After getting first aid given and the patient’s condition has stabilized, the patient will require further treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU).
When experiencing respiratory failure, patients with this critical condition need to get breathing assistance through:
Oxygen therapy to increase oxygen levels in the blood. Oxygen can be given through a nasal tube or nasal cannula and an oxygen mask.
Tracheostomy, which is a procedure performed to place a tube in your throat as an artificial airway, so that the patient can breathe more easily.
Mechanical ventilation, which is a technique of providing breathing assistance using a ventilator machine. Patients with respiratory failure generally require the installation of a breathing apparatus in the form of an endotracheal tube or an endotracheal tube (ETT) through intubation or tracheostomy before the ventilator machine is installed.
When giving rescue breaths is given, the doctor will also provide treatment to treat various conditions or diseases that cause respiratory failure.
For example, if respiratory failure is caused by pneumonia or sepsis, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Meanwhile, if respiratory failure is triggered by asthma or narrowing of the airway, the doctor will give a bronchodilator to relieve breathing.
However, if the respiratory failure is caused by swelling of the lungs, the doctor may prescribe diuretics to remove fluid from the lungs.
The patient’s recovery rate depends on several factors, such as age, the underlying cause of respiratory failure, how quickly the patient is treated, and the presence or absence of accompanying disease or complications.
Complications of Breathing Failure
Respiratory failure conditions that do not get treatment as early as possible have a high risk of causing complications or damage to various organs of the body, such as:
Respiratory failure can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, pneumothorax, and chronic respiratory failure. In patients with respiratory failure who have chronic lung disease, breathing apparatus may need to be used for life to help meet their oxygen needs.
Respiratory failure can trigger heart attacks, heart failure, and heart rhythm abnormalities or arrhythmias due to lack of oxygen to the heart.
Respiratory failure resulting in a lack of oxygen can lead to acute kidney failure. This damaged and impaired kidney function can exacerbate electrolyte disturbances and acid-base disorders.
Respiratory failure that causes a lack of oxygen can damage brain cells. This condition can progress to coma and death.
5. Digestive system
Respiratory failure can trigger bleeding in the digestive tract, as well as stomach and intestinal disorders.
If left untreated, respiratory failure can cause permanent organ damage which can be fatal. Therefore, this condition needs to be immediately checked by a doctor at the hospital.
After receiving emergency treatment, the doctor will perform a physical examination and support to determine the diagnosis and look for the cause of respiratory failure. The doctor will also measure the oxygen level in the patient’s blood with a device called an oximeter.
Examinations that will be carried out include blood tests, blood gas analysis, and radiological examinations, such as X-rays or CT scans and MRIs of suspected damaged organs. Only then can the doctor treat respiratory failure according to the accompanying disease or condition.