Respiratory Failure is when there is a significant problem that arises with breathing, oxygen absorption, and/or carbon dioxide release.

This condition can lead to serious functional problems with almost all vital organs around the body.

The Lungs are vitally affected in Respiratory Failure.

There is an inadequate amount of gas exchange, namely oxygen and carbon dioxide by the Respiratory System.

Another way to look at it is…breathing brings in oxygen and exhalation releases the toxic called carbon dioxide.

Oxygen is one of the most important and needed molecules in the entire body.

When breathing is compromised – serious problems result.

Less understood by general understanding is that an increase is Carbon Dioxide is almost as problematic as not enough oxygen.

A large drop in available oxygen can lead to Hypoxemia

A large increase in carbon dioxide can lead to Hypercapnia

Can be caused by pulmonary or non-pulmonary conditions.

Respiratory failure



  • Hypoxemia
  • Increased Carbon dioxide levels
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Painful breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty talking
  • Cyanosis
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Quick or slow heart bear
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • And others



A large variety of causes exist and only a small selection is shown below



Oxygen Therapy

Tracheal intubations

Mechanical ventilation


  • Doxapram  –  Is considered a respiratory stimulant
  • Naloxone  –  drug used to counter opioid overdoses such as heroin and morphine
  • Flumazenil  –  drug used in patients that have overdosed on a benzodiazepine [some considered controversial overdose medication]

Prognosis depends largely on underlying condition causing the failure.