Review of non-invasive ventilation in the emergency department: clinical considerations and management priorities

J Clin Nurs. 2009 Dec;18(23):3216-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02766.x. Epub 2009 Jun 17.


Aims and objectives: We aimed to synthesise evidence from published literature on non-invasive ventilation to inform nurses involved in the clinical management of non-invasive ventilation in the emergency department.

Background: Non-invasive ventilation is a form of ventilatory support that does not require endotracheal intubation and is used in the early management of acute respiratory failure in emergency departments. Safe delivery of this intervention requires a skilled team, educated and experienced in appropriate patient selection, available devices and monitoring priorities.

Design: Systematic review.

Method: A multi-database search was performed to identify works published in the English language between 1998-2008. Search terms included: non-invasive ventilation, continuous positive airway pressure and emergency department. Inclusion and exclusion criteria for the review were identified and systematically applied.

Results: Terminology used to describe aspects of non-invasive ventilation is ambiguous. Two international guidelines inform the delivery of this intervention, however, much research has been undertaken since these publications. Strong evidence exists for non-invasive ventilation for patients with acute exacerbation of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Non-invasive ventilation may be delivered with various interfaces and modes; little evidence is available for the superiority of individual interfaces or modes.

Conclusions: Early use of non-invasive ventilation for the management of acute respiratory failure may reduce mortality and morbidity. Though international guidelines exist, specific recommendations to guide the selection of modes, settings or interfaces for various aetiologies are lacking due to the absence of empirical evidence.

Relevance to clinical practice: Monitoring of non-invasive ventilation should focus on assessment of response to treatment, respiratory and haemodynamic stability, patient comfort and presence of air leaks. Complications are related to mask-fit and high air flows; serious complications are few and occur infrequently. The use of non-invasive ventilation has resource implications that must be considered to provide effective and safe management in the emergency department.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Health Priorities*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*