Study objective: To evaluate the beneficial effect of mechanical ventilation (MV) in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) who develop acute respiratory failure (ARF), with special emphasis on prognosis.
Design: Retrospective study.
Setting: Ten-bed respiratory ICU that is a part of a respiratory department actively involved in lung transplantation (LTx).
Patients: From 1991 to 1999, 23 patients (mean age, 52.9 years; range, 21 to 82 years) with IPF required MV for ARF. At admission to the ICU, 16 patients were potential candidates for LTx, with 5 patients already on the waiting list.
Measurements and results: Survival and gas exchange under MV were assessed. The precipitating cause of ARF was also analyzed. With the exception of 1 patient who successfully received a single-lung transplant 6 h after initiation of MV, all the remaining 22 patients died while receiving MV (median survival, 3 days; range, 1 h to 60 days). The duration of MV correlated positively with baseline vital capacity (percent predicted) (R = 0.54; p = 0.01) and baseline total lung capacity (percent predicted) (R = 0.71; p < 0.001), and correlated negatively with baseline PaCO(2) (R = - 0.47; p = 0.03) and the duration of evolution of IPF (R = -0.50; p = 0.01). Duration of MV did not correlate with the duration of immunosuppressive therapy (R = - 0.24; p = 0.27) or duration of oxygen therapy (R = - 0.32; p = 0.14) prior to admission. The precipitating cause of ARF was most often not identified.
Conclusions: Our data support the general belief that MV does not benefit IPF patients presenting with ARF. Initiation of MV in IPF patients is thus questionable and should, in our opinion, be restricted to patients in whom LTx can be performed within a few days after initiation of MV.