In every walk of life we have cause and effect .But sometimes we do not have the perfect explanation. One sees this in everyday evens and we do not even question it. We drop a glass object to the floor, it will break . The wood floats and the iron sinks . But the boat made of steel floats and so the scientists have found the reasons for such things . But in medicine we have no CAUSE for many outcomes and effects . In medicine we call it IDIOPATHIC . So we don't know why some people have elevated blood pressure and so we call it Idiopathic hypertension If someone has Fibrosis in lungs and we do not know what caused the fibrosis , we call it Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or IPF. But this is well accepted and no one thinks any other way or questions. But sometimes we see common things and have no answer . Certainly there is always a reason but we are unable to answer it and then the patients get frustrated as they have no way of PREVENTING IT .That brings me to the story for today.
I have known this patient for many years and she has been ex-smoker and had quit many years ago. Over period of time she worsened . She had diagnosis of COPD and she was on meds and still she continued to worsen over period of years, She needed oxygen and slowly we adjusted medicines and she was on all the medicines that we could use. She was also started on oxygen and nebulizes medicines and also steroids. She had some cardiac issues and they seem to be stable. Overall she was doing OK. One of theses days she was admitted and then had some worsening due to pneumonia. I checked her blood oxygen and carbon di oxide and she had elevation of carbon dioxide. So we started her on what is called non-invasive -ventilator. This has been done now a days for COPD patients for last few years. This helps the patient's own breath and this supplementation or the help improves the breathing and carbon dioxide and then the shortness of breath. So she was started on it and did well for more than a year. One day I get a call that she became unresponsive and so was taken to ER I went to see her in ER and the Er physician had already put her on respirator with a tube in her trachea. I reviewed the data . She was using her own machine and in spite of that she had ELEVATED carbon dioxide to such a level that she became unresponsive . So we had no choice of doing INVASIVE VENTILATOR and that did help. Over period of next 4 days we were slowly in position to reduce the support from the machine and we did take her off the ventilator. She did OK and she was started on the noninvasive ventilator at night and just oxygen during day time . I watched her for 3 dyas and she did just fine . We had done many tests . She had CT scan of brain to make sure she did not have stroke and she did not , We did CT scan of chest and she did not have clot or pneumonia . We did culture of blood and sputum and treated her with antibiotics and all the work up was negative and she did not have sepsis. So why did she have respiratory failure even when she was doing everything right ?
I DON'T KNOW and I will never know .
Why did her lungs quit suddenly and then in 4-5 days recovered , I don't know . But one thing that I DO KNOW is that I have seen such patients in past and will again see such patients where we do not have the cause that precipitated the event.