The use of non-invasive ventilation during acute respiratory failure due to pneumonia

Eur J Intern Med. 2012 Jul;23(5):420-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2012.02.011. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


The use of non-invasive ventilation in patients with community-acquired pneumonia is controversial since this is associated with high rates of treatment failure, compared with other causes of severe acute respiratory failure. The populations of patients with community-acquired pneumonia who have demonstrated better response to non-invasive ventilation are those with previous cardiac or respiratory disease, particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. By contrast, the use of non-invasive ventilation in patients with community-acquired pneumonia without these pre-existing diseases should be very cautious and under strict monitoring conditions, since there are increasing evidences that the unnecessary delay in intubation of those patients who fail treatment with non-invasive ventilation is associated with lower survival. Pulmonary complications of immunosuppressed patients are associated with high rates of intubation and mortality. The use of non-invasive ventilation in these patients may decrease the need for intubation and improve the poor outcome associated with these complications. Continuous positive airway pressure has been used to treat acute respiratory failure in several conditions characterised by alveolar collapse. While this is extremely useful in patients with acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema, the efficacy in pneumonia seems limited to immunosuppressed patients with pulmonary complications. Conversely, there are no sufficient evidences on the efficacy of continuous positive airway pressure in immunocompetent patients with pneumonia and severe acute respiratory failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Community-Acquired Infections / complications
  • Community-Acquired Infections / therapy
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / therapy
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome