A 66 year old woman was admitted to the ICU with acute type II respiratory failure secondary to a community acquired pneumonia (CURB-65 score 4) complicating severe COPD (FEV1 40% predicted). Collateral history revealed many concerning features; the patient had a poor exercise tolerance (mMRC dyspnoea scale score 3, exercise tolerance <100m), was alcohol dependent (drinking 120 units per week) and previously had been admitted to hospital with an exacerbation of COPD requiring NIV, and treatment for acute alcohol withdrawal.
Mechanical ventilation was commenced using a lung-protective strategy with permissive hypercapnia. Sedation was achieved using remifentanil and propofol, targeting a Richmond Agitation Scale Score (RASS) of -2 to 0. A noradrenaline infusion was commenced to maintain a mean arterial pressure of ≥65mmHg. A neutral cumulative fluid balance was targeted. Broad-spectrum antimicrobial therapy was continued as per local antimicrobial guidelines. Intravenous B vitamins were administered and enteral feeding was established via a nasogastric tube.
In view of the patient’s comparatively poor pre-morbid function and high risk of delirium, early extubation to NIV was identified as the preferred strategy. By day 3 the patient had improved such that this became a realistic goal. In order to prevent acute alcohol withdrawal, yet use benzodiazepines sparingly to avoid associated respiratory depression, remifentanil-propofol sedation was substituted for a clonidine infusion, which was continued following extubation. Low doses of chlordiazepoxide were used as rescue therapy in accordance with Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol scale (CIWA-Ar) scoring.
The patient progressed well, was weaned from both NIV and clonidine and was discharged from HDU to a respiratory ward on day 8. She survived to hospital discharge.
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