MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Respiratory Failure

(Lung Failure)

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Medically Reviewed Aug 2022 | Modified Sep 2022
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
Get the full details

What's respiratory failure?

Respiratory failure is when your breathing isn't good enough.

What causes respiratory failure?

Different types of problems can cause respiratory failure:

What are the symptoms of respiratory failure?

At first you may:

  • Feel short of breath

  • Have a blue color to your lips and sometimes to your skin

Later on you:

  • Become sleepy and confused

Without treatment, you may go into a coma and die.

How do doctors know I have respiratory failure?

Doctors usually know based on your symptoms. They also:

  • Put a sensor on your finger to measure the oxygen level in your blood

  • Do a blood test to measure the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide

They also do a chest x-ray and various other tests to look for the cause of your respiratory failure.

How do doctors treat respiratory failure?

You'll need to be in an intensive care unit (ICU). An ICU is an area in the hospital for people who are seriously ill. Doctors will treat the problem that caused respiratory failure and may:

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz! 
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
TOP