BACKGROUND: Domiciliary assisted ventilation, using negative or positive pressure devices, is an effective treatment for respiratory failure due to chest wall deformity and neuromuscular disease. Negative pressure ventilators have been used with some success in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease in hospital, but attempts to continue treatment at home have been disappointing. This study evaluates the practicalities of nasal intermittent positive pressure ventilation at home in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease and the effect on sleep and quality of life. METHODS AND RESULTS: Twelve patients with chronic obstructive lung disease and hypercapnic respiratory failure received nasal intermittent positive pressure ventilation at home during sleep. At six months eight were continuing with the ventilation. One patient had died and three had withdrawn because they were unable to sleep with the equipment. Full polysomnography performed during ventilation in patients continuing treatment at six months showed an increase in mean PaO2 of 11% (+2% to +23%) and lower mean transcutaneous carbon dioxide tensions (by -2.7 (-1.3 to -5.1) kPa) overnight compared with spontaneous breathing before the start of nasal intermittent positive pressure ventilation. Total sleep time and sleep efficiency changed during ventilation by +72.5 (+21 to +204) minutes and +5% (-3% to +30%) respectively; sleep architecture and the number of arousals were unchanged. Quality of life did not change but was no worse during ventilation. At one year seven patients were still using the ventilator and PaCO2 and bicarbonate ion concentration during the day had improved further by comparison with the values at six months (change from baseline -1.7 (-2.1 to -0.6) kPa, p less than 0.05, and -6.3 (-11.9 to -4) mmol/l, p less than 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Nasal intermittent positive pressure ventilation can be used effectively at home during sleep in selected patients with chronic obstructive lung disease. Its future place in management can be established only by formal comparison with long term oxygen therapy.
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