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respiratory failure

A failure of gaseous exchange

Chronic respiratory failure (CRF) is the permanent inability of the respiratory system to oxygenate the blood and/or remove carbon dioxide. It may be the result of a lack of airflow, and therefore the circulation of air through the lungs, or malfunctions in the pulmonary tissues resulting in a reduction of gaseous exchange between air and blood.

Principal causes of chronic respiratory failure

The most frequent causes of chronic respiratory failure are:

  • Neuromuscular diseases, such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome, which is becoming increasingly prevalent as a result of the obesity epidemic1
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is also increasing as a result of smoking, pollution and population aging2

Consequences of chronic respiratory failure

Chronic respiratory failure impairs daily life as a result of:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Acute fatigue
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Blue-tinged lips or fingertips (cyanosis) in the most severe cases
  • Sweating or headaches as a result of elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the blood
Impaired quality of life and loss of independence

CRF is sometimes complicated by severe aggravation of respiratory symptoms, resulting in impaired quality of life and loss of independence. Such episodes are serious and can be life threatening.

Air Liquide Healthcare provides patients with the full range of medical respiratory assistance equipment in their own homes.

Long-term treatment relies on home respiratory assistance

In addition to specific treatment for the underlying disease, CRF can benefit from long-term home respiratory assistance. Two services may be provided for this purpose1-3:

  • Mechanical ventilation1 to remove excess carbon dioxide using a simple mask
  • Oxygen therapy3 to remediate the lack of oxygen in the blood, usually via a nasal cannula connected to the oxygen source

CRF is often associated with anxiety or depression, both of which must be taken into consideration by the physician and care teams.

Our commitment to patient quality of life

Air Liquide Healthcare introduced home healthcare in Europe more than 30 years ago by providing support for chronic respiratory failure patients returning home from hospital.

More motivated than ever by the goal of improving patient quality of life and independence, Air Liquide Healthcare provides patients with the full range of medical respiratory assistance equipment in their own homes as part of its contribution to ensuring continuity of treatment in complete safety.

Improving patient quality of life and independence

Assisting patients with chronic respiratory failure

CRF patients are encouraged to play an active role in the treatment of their illness through:

  • Continuity of support from hospital to home
  • Availability of all medical techniques and equipment suitable for home use in accordance with medical prescription
  • Education and home follow-up programs to improve continuity of treatment

Once available only in hospitals, respiratory assistance can now be provided effectively and safely in the home.


  1. Cuvelier A and Muir JF. Indications of non-invasive ventilation for chronic respiratory failure in adults. Swiss Medical Review 2003;570. Available at:, accessed 11/18/2014, viewed 11/18/2014.
  2. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. Global Strategy for the diagnosis management and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Updated 2017; available at:
  3. National Heart, lung, and Blood Institute (NIH). What is respiratory Failure. US Department of Health & Human Services. Available at:, viewed 11/16/2014.