Purpose: This prospective, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested the hypothesis that noninvasive positive pressure ventilation reduces the need for endotracheal intubation in patients hospitalized in a pulmonary ward because of acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Materials and methods: Seventy-five consecutive patients with exacerbation (pH, 7.31 +/- 0.02; Pao(2), 45 +/- 9 mm Hg; Paco(2), 69 +/- 13 mm Hg) were randomly assigned to receive noninvasive ventilation or sham noninvasive ventilation during the first 3 days of hospitalization on top of standard medical treatment.
Results: The need for intubation (according to predefined criteria) was lower in the noninvasive ventilation group (13.5% vs 34%, P < .01); in 31 patients with pH not exceeding 7.30, these percentages were 22% and 77%, respectively (P < .001). Arterial pH and Paco(2) improved in both groups, but changes were enhanced by noninvasive ventilation. Length of stay was lower in the noninvasive ventilation group (10 +/- 5 vs 12 +/- 6 days, P = .06). In-hospital mortality was similar in both groups.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, in a pulmonary ward, reduces the need for endotracheal intubation, particularly in the more severe patients, and leads to a faster recovery in patients with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.