Hypercarbic Respiratory Failure

Acute hypercapnic respiratory failure can be experienced in the emergency department and inpatient floor, as well as in postoperative and extensive care systems.

Hypercarbic respiratory failure happens when fluid develops in the air sacs in your lungs. When that takes place, your lungs can’t release oxygen into your blood. In turn, your organs can’t get enough oxygen-rich blood to operate. You can likewise establish hypercarbic respiratory failure if your lungs can’t get rid of carbon dioxide from your blood.

Respiratory failure happens when the capillaries, or tiny capillary, surrounding your air sacs can’t correctly exchange co2 for oxygen. The condition can be hypercarbic or chronic. With hypercarbic respiratory failure, you experience instant symptoms from not having enough oxygen in your body. In many cases, this failure might result in death if it’s not treated rapidly.

Types of Hypercarbic Respiratory Failure

The two types of hypercarbic and chronic respiratory failure are hypoxemic and hypercapnic. Both conditions can activate severe issues, and the conditions frequently coexist.

Hypoxemic respiratory failure implies that you do not have sufficient oxygen in your blood, but your levels of co2 are close to normal.

Hypercapnic respiratory failure suggests that there’s excessive carbon dioxide in your blood, and near normal or not sufficient oxygen in your blood.

Information verified by the iythealth.com team.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypercarbic Respiratory Failure?

The symptoms of hypercarbic respiratory failure depend upon its underlying cause and the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood.

Individuals with a high carbon dioxide level may experience:

  • rapid breathing
  • confusion

Individuals with low oxygen levels may experience:

  • an inability to breathe
  • bluish coloration in the skin, fingertips, or lips

Individuals with the hypercarbic failure of the lungs and low oxygen levels might experience:

  • uneasiness
  • anxiety
  • sleepiness
  • loss of awareness
  • rapid and shallow breathing
  • racing heart
  • irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
  • excessive sweating.

What Causes Hypercarbic Respiratory Failure?

Hypercarbic respiratory failure has many different causes:


When something lodges in your throat, you might have trouble getting sufficient oxygen into your lungs. Blockage can likewise take place in individuals with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) or asthma when a worsening trigger the airways to become narrow.


An injury that impairs or jeopardizes your respiratory system can adversely impact the quantity of oxygen in your blood. For example, an injury to the spinal cord or brain can instantly impact your breathing. The brain informs the lungs to breathe. If the brain can’t relay messages due to injury or damage, the lungs can’t continue to operate properly.

An injury to the ribs or chest can also hamper the breathing procedure. These injuries can hinder your ability to inhale sufficient oxygen into your lungs.

Hypercarbic Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Hypercarbic respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a major condition defined by low oxygen in the blood. ARDS impacts you if you already have an underlying health problem such as:

  • pneumonia.
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
  • severe injury.
  • sepsis.
  • severe brain injuries.
  • lung injuries caused by inhalation of smoke or chemical products.

It can happen while you’re in the hospital being dealt with for your underlying condition.

Drug or alcohol abuse

If you overdose on drugs or consume alcohol, you can impair brain function and hinder your ability to breathe in or breathe out.

Chemical inhalation

Inhaling harmful chemicals, smoke or fumes can cause hypercarbic respiratory failure. These chemicals might injure or damage the tissues of your lungs, consisting of the air sacs and blood vessels.


A stroke happen when your brain experiences tissue death or damage on one or both sides of the brain. Frequently, it affects only one side. Although stroke does provide some indication, such as slurred speech or confusion, it generally takes place rapidly. If you have a stroke, you may lose your capability to breathe correctly.


Infections are a typical cause of respiratory distress. Pneumonia in specific may trigger the respiratory failure, even in the absence of ARDS. Sometimes pneumonia affects all five lobes of the lungs.

Who Is at Risk for Hypercarbic Respiratory Failure?

You may be at risk for hypercarbic respiratory failure if you:

  • smoke tobacco items.
  • beverage alcohol excessively.
  • have a family history of respiratory disease or conditions.
  • sustain an injury to the spine, brain, or chest.
  • have a jeopardized body immune system.
  • have chronic (long-lasting) respiratory issues, such as cancer of the lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthma.


Hypercarbic respiratory failure requires immediate medical attention. You might receive oxygen to assist you to breathe and to avoid tissue death in your organs and brain.

After your medical professional stabilizes you, she or he will take specific steps to diagnose your condition, such as:

  • carry out a physical exam.
  • ask you concerns about your family or individual health history.
  • examine your body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels level with a pulse oximetry device and an arterial blood gas test.
  • order a chest X-ray to look for problems in your lungs.

Treatment for Hypercarbic Respiratory Failure

Treatment should take into account your General condition, other comorbidities and age. Your physician will then treat your respiratory failure with a variety of alternatives.

  • Your physician might recommend pain medications or other medications to help you breathe much better.
  • If you can breathe effectively on your own and your hypoxemia is moderate, you might get oxygen from an oxygen tank to help you breathe much better. Portable air tanks are offered if your condition requires one.
  • If you can’t breathe sufficiently by yourself, your doctor might insert a breathing tube into your mouth or nose, and connect the tube to a ventilator to help you breathe.
  • If you require extended ventilator assistance, an operation that develops a synthetic respiratory tract in the windpipe called a tracheostomy may be needed.
  • You may get oxygen using an oxygen tank or ventilator to help you breathe much better.


You might see enhancement in your lung function if you get proper treatment for your underlying condition. You may likewise require pulmonary rehab, that includes exercise therapy and training.

Hypercarbic respiratory failure can cause long-lasting damage to your lungs. It’s important to look for emergency medical care if you’re experiencing the symptoms of respiratory failure.

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