Respiratory failure medical therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Hadeel Maksoud M.D.[2]


There is no treatment for respiratory failure; however, medication may be used to allow for easier intubation and to ease anxiety in the patient. Recently, studies have demonstrated a strong recommendation against the use of sedatives or analgesics. The use of these agents has been implicated in decreasing the success rates of ventilation mechanisms.

Medical Therapy

Medical therapy includes:[1][2]

Respiratory failure

  • 1 Opiate overdose
    • 1.1 Naloxone
      • 1.1.1 Adult
        • Preferred regimen (1): Naloxone 0.05 mg IV initially, then titrated in increasing amounts every 5 minutes with a respriatory rate of 12 or greater
      Note (1): Apneic patients with suspected opiate overdose should receive higher first doses of naloxone between 0.2 - 1 mg
      Note (2): Cardiorespiratory with suspected opiate overdose should receive a minimum of 2 mg of naloxone
  • 2 Benzodiazepine overdose
    • 2.1 Flumazenil
      • 2.1.1 Adult
        • Preferred regimen (1): Flumazenil 0.2 mg IV over 30 seconds
      Note (1): Repeated doses of 0.2 mg up to 1 mg if desired effect not achieved
      Note (2): Maximum dose of 3mg is given within any hour


  1. Stoica RT, Macri A (2012). "[Sedation of patients with respiratory failure in ICU]". Pneumologia (in Romanian). 61 (4): 240–4. PMID 23424950.
  2. Bourenne J, Hraiech S, Roch A, Gainnier M, Papazian L, Forel JM (July 2017). "Sedation and neuromuscular blocking agents in acute respiratory distress syndrome". Ann Transl Med. 5 (14): 291. doi:10.21037/atm.2017.07.19. PMC 5537113. PMID 28828366.

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