What causes hypoventilation in COPD?

Updated: Jul 22, 2021
  • Author: Jazeela Fayyaz, DO; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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Hypoventilation in patients with COPD is secondary to multiple mechanisms. As mentioned previously, these patients usually have severe obstruction, with an FEV1 of less than 1 L or 30% of the predicted value.

Patients with COPD who hypoventilate have a decreased chemical responsiveness to hypoxia and hypercapnia. This decreased chemical responsiveness also is observed in relatives of these patients who do not have COPD, leading researchers to believe that a genetic predisposition to alveolar hypoventilation exists.

These patients have a reduced tidal volume and a rapid, shallow breathing pattern, which leads to an increased VD/VT ratio. Patients also may have abnormal diaphragm function secondary to muscular fatigue and muscular mechanical disadvantage from hyperinflation.

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