Patients with respiratory difficulties can breathe more easily

BIPAP machines

Patients with type-2 respiratory failure (which involves low oxygen and high carbon dioxide levels) can experience such poor breathing function that it threatens their lives. This is associated with a variety of conditions including motor neurone disease, but most commonly in patients with an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). COPD is the second most common reason for hospital admissions and the fifth biggest killer in the UK.

While most patients improve with medical treatment, patients who deteriorate would often require intubation (having a breathing tube inserted into their airway) which means they can’t eat or drink normally and are at an increased risk of infection.

Thanks to a generous donation, via Raise, from our League of Friends, the 300 patients treated annually for type 2 respiratory failure in Watford General can now breathe more easily using four new BiPAP machines (bilevel positive airway pressure).

BiPAP is called “Bi-level positive pressure ventilation” because the device helps open patients’ lungs with this air pressure. These machines are particularly useful for patients who can’t breathe out, so can’t expel the build-up of carbon dioxide. This can lead to further life-threatening complications. BiPAP machines help push air into patients’ lungs. It is worn externally, is non-invasive and sits around the mouth and nose or the whole face, to alleviate breathing problems.

Patricia Yunger, Acute Respiratory Consultant, explained the benefits: “The benefits for patients are enormous. Because BiPAP is non invasive, patients can continue to drink and eat normally which helps them regain their strength. Also, for patients with accumulated fluid in the lung, it alleviates the feeling of drowning, and makes them feel much better instantly.”

Dr Shruthi Konda, Respiratory and General Internal Medicine Consultant, added: “Another benefit is that the equipment enables patients to breathe at night, which helps them regain their strength faster and return home sooner. Perhaps most importantly, because the BiPAP machine avoids patients being intubated, they are able to continue talking to their loved ones, which is especially important for those in the last stages of life. It buys them precious, quality time together.

“On behalf of the whole respiratory team and all the patients to come, we would like to say a huge thank you to our League of Friends for their kindness.”

Photo caption (L to R): Frazer Noyce, Sister Bernie Peacock, Mavis Tyrwhitt (League of Friends), Dr Shruthi Konda and Dr Patricia Yunger.