The body’s organs need oxygen-rich blood to function properly. Respiratory failure occurs when not enough oxygen travels from the lungs into the blood. It also happens when too much carbon dioxide remains in the blood. Respiratory failure can be caused by neuromuscular conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and muscular dystrophy, as well as by stroke and spinal cord injuries. It can also be caused by an injury to the chest. Pulmonary diseases that can lead to respiratory failure include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung disease (ILD) and pneumonia.
Board-certified pulmonologists trained in critical care medicine and thoracic surgeons at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Lung Center provide specialized diagnostic and treatment services for chronic respiratory failure. They collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of medical, surgical and rehabilitation specialists dedicated to minimizing symptoms and maximizing quality of life for patients. For those patients who require ventilator support, our team is uniquely trained in all forms of mechanical ventilation, including non-invasive positive pressure ventilation and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), often used as a bridge to lung transplantation. Our thoracic surgeons specialize in thoracotomy to open the airway and lung transplantation.