Acute Respiratory Failure

Acute respiratory failure means that your lungs have stopped doing their normal function, which is gas exchange. If this happens, you will feel short of breath, tired, and confused. You might look bluish and even go unconscious. This can happen due to many reasons such as trauma to your chest, infection in your lung, chronic lung diseases, pulmonary embolism and neurological diseases. It can also happen due to head trauma and drug or alcohol overdose.

Your doctor will diagnose this condition by asking you about your symptoms and past medical history, examining you, and running some blood tests including ones that will evaluate your blood gas content.
  • Symptoms
  • Abnormally rapid breathing


    Difficulty breathing

    • Rapidly developing


    Rapid heart rate

    or Irregular heartbeat


    Bluish discoloration of the skin

    • Lips, In hand, Fingernails, In feet





    • Insidious

    • Chronic or persistent pain





    or Irritability


    Feeling sleepy



    • Both sides

    • Tremor of the hand when the wrist is extended

    A sudden and temporary alteration of muscle tone, movements or behavior

    or Fainting

  • Risk factors
  • Infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs

    or Recent upper respiratory tract infection

    or Infection in any part of urinary system

    Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

    Recent hospitalization


    Cystic fibrosis

    Breathing stops involuntarily during sleep

    Recent chest injury or trauma

    Recent thoracic surgery

    or History of cardiac surgery

    Head injury

    or Recent back injury or trauma


    Anesthesia induction

    or Use of sedative drugs

    or Alcohol consumption

    or Intravenous drug abuse

    or Drug or substance abuse

    History of Guillain-Barré syndrome

    or History of myasthenia gravis

    Recent blood transfusion

  • Treatment
  • Treatment of acute respiratory failure depends mainly on delivering oxygen to your lungs and vital organs. This can be done through oxygen therapy or using a ventilator. It is also essential to treat the underlying cause of acute respiratory failure like treating pneumonia with antibiotics and treating pulmonary embolism with blood thinners.
  • Recommended specialist
  • If you have Acute Respiratory Failure, then visit a pulmonologist as soon as possible.

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