• respiratory failure;
  • ventilation;
  • positive pressure;
  • CPAP;
  • congestive heart failure


Objective: To describe the use of a noninvasive bi-level positive airway pressure (PAP) support system for ED patients with acute congestive heart failure (CHF).

Methods: Retrospective case series analysis of ED patients presenting with acute CHF in imminent need of endotracheal intubation (ETI) managed with a bi-level PAP system. The bi-level PAP system was applied at the discretion of the treating emergency physician. Management of the bi-level PAP system, including setting of inspiratory PAP (IPAP) and expiratory PAP (EPAP), weaning, adjunct pharmacologic therapy, and failure of bi-level PAP support, was determined by the treating physician.

Results: Only two (9%) of 22 patient presentations necessitated ETI. The mean duration of bi-level PAP therapy was 7.9 hours. The mean maximum IPAP and EPAP settings were 10.8 and 5.8 cm H2O, respectively. Mean intensive care unit length of stay (LOS) was 2.4 days, with a median LOS of only 1 day. There were three deaths in the series; none were attributed to the bi-level PAP system. No technical difficulty with the bi-level PAP system was noted.

Conclusion: Noninvasive pressure support ventilation with a bi-level PAP support system may avert ETI in acute CHF patients. This device can be effectively used by ED personnel.