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Non-Invasive ventilation for those suffering from respiratory illnesses

Non-Invasive ventilation for those suffering from respiratory illnesses

Apria Editorial |

If you are suffering from a respiratory illness, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or sleep apnea, you may have heard of non-invasive ventilation (NIV). NIV is a type of breathing support that does not require a tube or surgery to deliver air into your lungs. Instead, it uses a mask that fits over your nose or mouth or both, and a machine that gently pushes air into your airways.

Non-invasive ventilators can help you breathe easier, improve your oxygen levels, reduce your symptoms, and prevent complications. It can also improve your quality of life and reduce the need for hospitalization. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about NIV as a treatment for respiratory illness.

What is Non-Invasive ventilation?

NIV is a form of non-invasive mechanical ventilation that delivers pressurized air into your lungs through a mask. Unlike invasive ventilation, which requires a tube inserted into your windpipe (trachea) or a hole in your neck (tracheostomy), NIV does not interfere with your natural breathing. You can still talk, eat, drink, and cough while using NIV.

NIV works by creating positive pressure in your airways, which helps keep them open and prevents them from collapsing. This makes it easier for you to inhale and exhale air, especially if you have weak or damaged muscles or nerves that control your breathing. NIV also helps remove carbon dioxide from your lungs and increase oxygen in your blood.

NIV can be used for different purposes, depending on your condition and needs. Some of the common reasons to use NIV are:

  1. To treat acute respiratory failure, which is a life-threatening condition where your lungs cannot provide enough oxygen to your body or remove enough carbon dioxide from your blood. This can happen due to various causes, such as pneumonia, asthma attack, COPD exacerbation, chest injury, or drug overdose.
  2. To treat chronic respiratory failure, which is a long-term condition where your lungs cannot function properly due to an underlying disease or disorder. This can lead to low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in your blood, which can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, confusion, and sleep problems. Some of the common causes of chronic respiratory failure are COPD, obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS), neuromuscular diseases (such as muscular dystrophy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and chest wall deformities (such as kyphoscoliosis).
  3. To treat sleep-disordered breathing, which is a condition where your breathing becomes irregular or stops during sleep. This can cause low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in your blood, which can disrupt your sleep quality and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other health problems. Some of the common types of sleep-disordered breathing are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR).

Benefits of Non Invasive Ventilation

NIV can provide many benefits for people with respiratory illness, such as:

  1. Improved Comfort: Unlike invasive ventilation methods, NIV allows patients to breathe more naturally, reducing discomfort and anxiety.
  2. Preservation of Communication: With a non invasive ventilator, patients can communicate verbally and maintain connection with their loved ones.
  3. Reduced Risk of Infections: By avoiding invasive procedures, non-invasive ventilation machines minimize the risk of infections associated with intubation.
  4. Shorter Hospital Stays: NIV can facilitate earlier discharge from hospitals and help patients transition to home-based care.
  5. Effective Treatment: It is effective in treating various respiratory conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and neuromuscular disorders
How non-invasive ventilation works

Non-Invasive Ventilation Types

There are two main types of non-invasive ventilators: continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)machines and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines. Both types use a mask to deliver pressurized air into your lungs. However, they differ in how they adjust the pressure during inhalation and exhalation.

CPAP delivers a constant level of pressure throughout the breathing cycle. This means that the pressure is the same when you inhale and exhale. CPAP helps keep your airways open and prevents them from collapsing during sleep. CPAP is mainly used for treating OSA, but it can also be used for other conditions that cause low oxygen levels during sleep.

BiPAP delivers two different levels of pressure during the breathing cycle. This means that the pressure is higher when you inhale and lower when you exhale. BiPAP helps you breathe more easily by assisting your inhalation and reducing the work of exhalation. BiPAP is mainly used for treating acute or chronic respiratory failure, but it can also be used for other conditions that cause difficulty breathing.

How to Use NIV

NIV can be used in different settings, depending on your condition and needs. You may use NIV in the hospital, under the supervision of a doctor or nurse, or at home, with the guidance of a respiratory therapist or a home care provider. In either case, you will need to follow some steps to use NIV safely and effectively.

Some of the steps involved in using NIV in the hospital and at home are:

-Choosing the right mask: You will need to select a mask that fits your face comfortably and securely. There are different types of masks available, such as nasal masks, full-face masks, or nasal pillows. Your healthcare provider will help you choose the best mask for you and adjust it properly.

-Setting up the machine: You will need to connect the mask to the machine using a tube. The machine will have a display screen that shows the pressure settings and other information. Your healthcare practitioner will set up the machine according to your prescription and explain how to use it.

-Starting NIV: You will need to put on the mask and turn on the machine. The machine will start delivering air into your lungs at the prescribed pressure. You will need to breathe normally and synchronize your breathing with the machine. You may feel some discomfort or resistance at first, but this should improve as you get used to NIV.

-Monitoring NIV: You will need to monitor your response to NIV and report any problems or concerns to your doctor or nurse. They will check your vital signs, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, and carbon dioxide level, regularly. They will also assess your symptoms, comfort, and tolerance of NIV. They may adjust the pressure settings or change the mask if needed.

-Stopping NIV: You will need to stop using NIV when your doctor decides that you no longer need it or when you are ready to switch to another mode of ventilation. Your doctor or nurse will evaluate your condition and provide further instructions.

Are there Side Effects of Non-Invasive Ventilation?

While non-invasive ventilation is a highly effective respiratory therapy, it may entail some side effects for patients. Common side effects include dry mouth, which can be alleviated with the use of humidified air; skin irritation, primarily around the areas where the mask or nasal prongs make contact, for which adjusting the fit or using specialized creams can help; and occasional nasal congestion, which can be managed with saline sprays or decongestants if necessary. It's important to note that these side effects are generally mild and manageable, and healthcare providers can work closely with patients to address any concerns and ensure their comfort throughout NIV therapy.

Better breathing with a non-invasive ventilator

Non-invasive ventilation is a game-changer for individuals dealing with respiratory illnesses. Its ability to provide effective respiratory support without invasive procedures has transformed the way we approach treatment. By understanding the techniques and benefits of non-invasive ventilators, you can take an informed step toward improving your respiratory health.

In consultation with your healthcare provider, you can determine if non-invasive ventilation is the right choice for you.


Q: Who can benefit from Non-Invasive Ventilation?
NIV is beneficial for individuals with a range of respiratory conditions, including COPD, asthma, congestive heart failure, and neuromuscular diseases.

Q: Is NIV suitable for all patients with respiratory issues?
While NIV is highly effective, it may not be suitable for everyone. Your healthcare provider will assess your condition and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Q: What should I expect during NIV therapy?
During NIV, you will wear a mask or nasal prongs connected to a ventilator or CPAP/BiPAP machine. It may take some time to adjust, but most patients find it comfortable.

Q: Can NIV be used at home?
Yes, NIV can often be used at home, allowing you to maintain your daily routine while managing your respiratory condition.

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