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Causes of Chronic
Respiratory Failure

Chronic Respiratory Failure

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.

Frequent Causes of Chronic Respiratory Failure:

  • 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 epidemic
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is also increasing as a result of smoking, pollution and population aging

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
  • 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 purpose:

  1. Mechanical ventilation - to remove excess carbon dioxide using a simple mask
  2. Oxygen therapy - to remediate the lack of oxygen in the blood, usually via a nasal cannula connected to the oxygen source