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Acute respiratory failure 

Acute respiratory failure
Acute respiratory failure

Susannah Leaver

, Jeremy Cordingley

, Simon Finney

, and Mark Griffiths

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date: 27 February 2021

Acute respiratory failure is defined clinically by hypoxaemia with (type 2) or without (type 1) hypercapnia. It is one of the most common problems afflicting critically ill patients and is a common indication for transfer to an intensive care unit. Critical illness may be manifest solely as respiratory insufficiency, especially in patients with covert infection. Acute respiratory failure frequently coexists with other organ system failures in the critically ill, and delayed recognition of the condition adversely affects outcome. The signs of critical illness tend to be similar whatever the precipitating cause and are manifest in failure of the respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological systems. Full and repeated physical examination may be required to assess the cause and severity of acute respiratory failure and its associated complications, but in severe cases should not delay the instigation of life-saving support and treatment.

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