Background and objective: In patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), noninvasive ventilatory support (NPPV) with bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) may improve clinical and physiological parameters. The present study used a randomized, prospective design to evaluate the possible benefits of NPPV plus standard therapy versus standard therapy alone in patients admitted with acute hypercapnic respiratory failure in a respiratory unit of a tertiary hospital.
Patients and method: Forty-one patients were included in the study. Of them, 20 were randomly allocated to receive NPPV with a standard mask connected to a BiPAP ventilatory assist device (Respironics Inc, Murrysville, PA) and 21 to standard therapy. Both groups had similar characteristics upon their admission in the hospital.
Results: The use of noninvasive ventilation significantly reduced the respiratory rates and improved the conscious level within the first 2 h (p < 0.001). There were significant differences in PaCO2 and pH (p < 0.05) at 6 h of treatment. The need for intubation was 5% in the NPPV group vs 14% in the control group. The length of hospital stay was significantly shorter in the NPPV group (7 vs 10 days; p < 0.01). Nasal NPPV was well tolerated and complications were uncommon and mild.
Conclusions: Early use of noninvasive ventilation in patients with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease leads to a more rapid improvement of physiological variables. Moreover, it is possible to apply this treatment in a general respiratory ward.