Mechanically Ventilating the Severe Asthmatic

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The management of the critically ill patients with asthma can be rather challenging. Potentially devastating complications relating to this presentation include hypoxemia, worsening bronchospasm, pulmonary aspiration, tension pneumothorax, dynamic hyperinflation, hypotension, dysrhythmias, and seizures. In contrast to various other pathologies requiring mechanical ventilation, acute asthma is generally associated with better outcomes. This review serves as a practical guide to the physician managing patients with severe acute asthma requiring mechanical ventilation. In addition to specifics relating to endotracheal intubation, we also discuss the interpretation of ventilator graphics, the recommended mode of ventilation, dynamic hyperinflation, permissive hypercapnia, as well as the role of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and noninvasive mechanical ventilation.

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