Non-invasive ventilation as a prehospital intervention for acute COPD exacerbation

Samuel McCreesh
Monday, September 2, 2019

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the second most common respiratory illness in the UK, affecting over 1 million people. Acute exacerbations of COPD are a common presentation to the ambulance service and account for thousands of hospital admissions annually. Acute respiratory failure accompanies approximately 20% of exacerbations. Current prehospital treatment focuses on oxygen and pharmacological therapy to treat the underlying causes. Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) is a method of ventilatory support that does not require endotracheal intubation, avoiding significant risks associated with intubation and sedation. While some UK ambulance services have introduced NIV, UK guidelines primarily focus on hospital use. International trials have shown prehospital NIV to be more effective than standard treatment in terms of reducing the need for intubation and invasive ventilation in hospital. However, further research is necessary before NIV is introduced widely in UK prehospital paramedic practice.

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