BACKGROUND--Ventilatory failure is a well recognised complication of patients who have had a thoracoplasty for tuberculosis, but there are few data regarding the value of long term non-invasive assisted ventilation in this situation. METHODS--Thirty two patients who had had a thoracoplasty 20-46 years previously and who had developed respiratory failure were treated with nocturnal cuirass assisted ventilation or nasal positive pressure ventilation. Their survival and changes in arterial blood gases, nocturnal oximetry, and pulmonary function tests were assessed. RESULTS--The actuarial survival rates at one, three, five, and seven years after starting treatment were 91%, 74%, 64%, and 55%, respectively. Only seven of the 13 deaths were directly attributable to chronic respiratory or cardiac failure. The arterial PO2, PCO2, mean nocturnal oxygen saturation, vital capacity, and maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressures had all improved at the time of the initial post-treatment assessment (mean 12 days after starting treatment), but no subsequent improvements were seen after up to 48 months of follow up. Neither survival nor physiological improvements were correlated with the patients' age, the interval since thoracoplasty, or the pretreatment arterial blood gas tensions or results of pulmonary function tests. CONCLUSIONS--These results show that, even when ventilatory failure has developed, the prognosis with non-invasive assisted ventilation is good and the physiological abnormalities can be partially reversed. Patients who develop respiratory failure after a thoracoplasty should be considered for this type of long term domiciliary treatment.
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