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Hypoxaemia in the critically ill 

Hypoxaemia in the critically ill
Hypoxaemia in the critically ill

Susannah Leaver

and Timothy Evans

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date: 28 February 2020

Hypoxaemia is a reduction in the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood below 8 kPa/60 mmHg. Hypoxaemia results from one, or several, or a combination of causes. Calculating the alveolar–arterial gradient can help to delineate the cause. Acute respiratory failure manifests in a number of ways, the most sensitive indicator being an increased respiratory rate. Diagnosis is dependent on a comprehensive history, examination in combination with appropriate blood tests, and imaging. Hypoxaemia is the final common pathway of a number of conditions and the exact cause may not be immediately apparent. Despite this, the same management principles apply. A trial of non-invasive ventilation can be used to support patients during respiratory failure who do not require immediate endotracheal intubation. However, it is recommended that this is instituted for a preset trial period (e.g. 1–2 hours) in an HDU/ICU setting where facilities for definitive airway management are available. Invasive ventilation aims to facilitate treatment of the underlying condition whilst minimizing side effects through lung protective ventilatory strategies.

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