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Highly Accessed Open Badges Commentary

Non-invasive mechanical ventilation in hematology patients: let's agree on several things first

David Schnell12, Virginie Lemiale12 and Élie Azoulay12*

Author Affiliations

1 Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpital Saint-Louis, Réanimation médicale, 1 avenue Claude Vellefaux, 75010 Paris, France

2 University Paris-7 Paris-Diderot, UFR de Médecine, 75010 Paris, France

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Critical Care 2012, 16:175  doi:10.1186/cc11830

See related research by Molina et al.,

Published: 19 November 2012


Acute respiratory failure is a dreaded and life-threatening event that represents the main reason for ICU admission. Respiratory events occur in up to 50% of hematology patients, including one-half of those admitted to the ICU. Mortality from acute respiratory failure in hematology patients depends on the patient's general status, acute respiratory failure etiology, need for mechanical ventilation and associated organ dysfunction. Non-invasive mechanical ventilation is clearly beneficial for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation and cardiogenic pulmonary edema. These benefits are based mainly on the avoidance of invasive mechanical ventilation complications. Non-invasive mechanical has also been recommended in hematology patients with acute respiratory failure but its real benefits remain unclear in these settings. There is growing concern about the safety of non-invasive mechanical ventilation to treat hypoxemic acute respiratory failure overall, but also in hematology patients. Prophylactic non-invasive mechanical ventilation in patients with acute respiratory failure but not respiratory distress seems to be effective in hematology patients with a reduced rate of intubation. However, curative non-invasive mechanical ventilation should be restricted to those patients with isolated respiratory failure, with fast improvement of respiratory distress under non-invasive mechanical ventilation, and with rapid switch to intubation to avoid deleterious delays in optimal invasive mechanical ventilation.