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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for progressive lung diseases that affect your ability to breathe properly. COPD most commonly consists of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

As COPD progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to inhale and exhale. Mechanical ventilation may be prescribed to help people breathe when they are not able to effectively breathe on their own.

The difference between oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation

When COPD makes it difficult to breathe, it can mean oxygen levels in the bloodstream become too low, and carbon dioxide levels become too high. Oxygen therapy – either through oxygen tanks or oxygen concentrators – is commonly prescribed to help increase oxygen levels and support organ function. Some people with COPD may only need oxygen therapy. Others, however, may need help stabilizing the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body.

That’s where mechanical ventilation can help. Instead of a steady stream of oxygen, non-invasive ventilation (NIV) uses pressurized room air delivered through a mask or mouthpiece to make the act of inhaling easier. It uses a lower pressure or no pressure at all to help with the exhalation of carbon dioxide. Your doctor may decide that you would benefit from using both mechanical ventilation and oxygen therapy at home.

Benefits of mechanical ventilation

Non-invasive ventilation can be used in the hospital and at home. When used in the hospital, it can help to quickly reduce the carbon dioxide levels and aid in better gas exchange, helping to foster a faster recovery and hospital release. 1

When you go home, your doctor may want you to continue using a ventilator. Home use of non-invasive ventilation has been shown to:

  • Improve your quality of life 2

  • Reduce the risk of being readmitted to the hospital 3

  • Reduce the risk of death when added to home oxygen therapy for people who have too much carbon dioxide in their blood 4