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Chronic respiratory failure - Definition


Respiratory failure is the inability of the respiratory system to ensure proper oxygenation of the blood. When called chronic, it often follows the progression of a lung disease, as in the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which mainly affects smokers, or fibrotic lung diseases. Neurological impairment, though rare, may also be involved. Chronic respiratory failure is characterized by a gradual increase in difficulty breathing with the onset of cyanosis, a bluish coloration of the integument revealing an increase in the proportion of deoxygenated blood. It is confirmed by the study of blood gases in an arterial blood sample or ABG. Treating chronic respiratory insufficiency should improve oxygenation, with a greater supply of oxygen through a tube: this is oxygen therapy; or sometimes through the use of a machine providing ventilation: this is artificial ventilation. In some cases, a lung transplant may be considered.