Background: Noninvasive ventilation has assumed an important role in the management of respiratory failure in critical care units, but it must be used selectively depending on the patient's diagnosis and clinical characteristics.
Data: We review the strong evidence supporting the use of noninvasive ventilation for acute respiratory failure to prevent intubation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations or acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema, and in immunocompromised patients, as well as to facilitate extubation in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who require initial intubation. Weaker evidence supports consideration of noninvasive ventilation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients with postoperative or postextubation respiratory failure; patients with acute respiratory failure due to asthma exacerbations, pneumonia, acute lung injury, or acute respiratory distress syndrome; during bronchoscopy; or as a means of preoxygenation before intubation in critically ill patients with severe hypoxemia.
Conclusion: Noninvasive ventilation has assumed an important role in managing patients with acute respiratory failure. Patients should be monitored closely for signs of noninvasive ventilation failure and promptly intubated before a crisis develops. The application of noninvasive ventilation by a trained and experienced intensive care unit team, with careful patient selection, should optimize patient outcomes.