What is the role of medications in the treatment of hypoventilation syndromes?

Updated: Jul 22, 2021
  • Author: Jazeela Fayyaz, DO; Chief Editor: Guy W Soo Hoo, MD, MPH  more...
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Several drugs may be used to treat hypoventilation syndromes. Most produce the desired effect by stimulating the central respiratory drive, by reversing the effects of other medications that can depress the central respiratory drive, or by inducing bronchial dilatation.

For example, bronchodilators such as beta-agonists (eg, albuterol), anticholinergic agents (eg, atropine), and methylxanthines (eg, theophylline) are helpful in treating patients with obstructive lung disease and severe bronchospasm. Additionally, theophylline may improve diaphragm muscle contractility and stimulate the respiratory center.

Over the past several years, multiple long-acting beta-2 agonists and long-acting acting anticholinergics have become available for use in COPD. Patients may benefit from long-acting bronchodilators, such as salmeterol, formoterol, vilanterol, or olodaterol or a long-acting anticholinergic such as tiotropium, umeclidinium, or aclidinium. Patients often are started on a combination product with both these medications. Inhaled steroids might help in select COPD patients or for short-term treatment.

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