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Pulmonary Edema (cont.)

Medication

In the acute situation, oxygen is the first drug that may help reduce dyspnea, or shortness of breath.

Intravenous diuretics [furosemide (Lasix), bumetanide (Bumex)] are first-line medications to help the kidneys remove excess fluid from the body. Even in kidney failure, these drugs may help shift fluid out of the lung for a short period of time.

Reducing the work effort of the heart may be helpful in the acute situation. Nitroglycerin (Nitrolingual, Nitrolingual Duo Pack, Nitroquick, Nitrostat) can be used to reduce the workload of the heart by dilating blood vessels and reducing the amount of blood returning to the heart. Enalapril (Vasotec) and captopril (Capoten) are examples of medications that dilate peripheral arteries and decrease the resistance against which the heart muscle must pump.

Morphine may be considered to ease anxiety and help with the feeling of shortness of breath.

If the patient is in respiratory failure, positive airway pressure breathing machines (CPAP, BiPAP) may be used to force air into the lungs. This is a short-term solution (used for up to a few hours) until the medications work.

In patients who become somnolent (sleepy) or who are no longer able to breathe adequately on their own, intubation (putting a tube into the airway) and using a ventilator may be required.

In non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema, the focus will be on decreasing lung inflammation. While the above medications may be considered, the short-term use of mechanical ventilation with CPAP, BiPAP, or a ventilator may be indicated. The underlying cause of pulmonary edema needs to be diagnosed, and this will direct further therapy.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2014

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