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NIPPV for acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema

Three Part Question

In [patients with acute LVF] is [NIPPV better than alternative treatment strategies] at [avoiding intubation and improving mortality]?

Clinical Scenario

A 76 year old male is brought in to A&E in a collapsed state. He has a history of ischaemic heart disease. He is agitated, tachypnoeic and sweating profusely. His neck veins are distended and there are widespread coarse crepitations in his chest. He has a diminshed oxygen saturation. You make a clinical diagnosis of acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema. In addition to vasodilator treatment and opiates, you wonder whether you should administer non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV).

Search Strategy

Medline 1966-08/01 using OVID interface.
[exp pulmonary edema/ or "pulmonary edema".mp or exp ventricular dsyfunction, left/ or exp heart failure, congestive/ or exp myocardial infarction/ or "Left ventricular failure".mp or "lvf".mp] AND [exp positive-pressure respiration/ or exp intermittent positive-pressure ventilation/ or exp respiration, artificial/ or "non-invasive ventilation".mp or "bilevel".mp or "BiPAP".mp or "pressure support".mp] LIMIT to (human and english language) AND maximally sensitive RCT filter.

Search Outcome

208 papers were found, of which 4 randomised controlled trials directly addressed the three part question.

Relevant Paper(s)

Author, date and country Patient group Study type (level of evidence) Outcomes Key results Study Weaknesses
Mehta S et al,
27 patients with ACPO NIPPV vs CPAP Prospective randomised controlled trialClinical variablesBP and PaCO2 lower in NIPPV group (p<0.05) Small numbers Study stopped early due to MI differences. NIPPV had more chest pain at baseline
Incidence of myocardial infarction10/14 in NIPPV group vs 4/13 with CPAP (p=0.05)
Length of ICU/hospital stay, intubation rates, mortalityN/S differences between groups
Sharon A et al,
40 patients with ACPO NIPPV and low dose nitrates vs high dose nitrates alone Prospective randomised controlled trialMortality2/20 in NIPPV group vs 0/20 (N/S)No power calculation Study stopped early due to differences in rate of intubation Pre-hospital setting
Intubation rate16/20 in NIPPV group vs 2/20 (p=0.0004)
Incidence of myocardial infarction11/20 in NIPPV group vs 2/20 (p=0.006)
SaO2, pulse and respiratory ratesImprovement significantly slower with NIPPV
Masip J et al,
40 patients with ACPO NIPPV vs O2PRCTMortalityControl 2/18
Intervention 0/18
Not analysed on basis of intention to treat Small numbers with likely effect of underpowered study
IntubationControl 6/18
Intervention 1/19
Hospital stayNo significant difference between groups
Park M et al,
26 patients with ACPO O2 vs BiPAP vs CPAPPRCTClinical variables (e.g. RR,HR etc.)No difference at 60 minsSmall numbers No power calculation No clear randomisation
IntubationO2 – 4/10
CPAP – 3/9
BiPAP – 0/7
DeathO2 – 0
CPAP – 1 (day 3)
BiPAP - 0


This group of trials compared NIPPV with different alternative treatments; oxygen, continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) or high dose medical therapy. One study showed a benefit in the reduction of intubation rates when NIPPV is compared to oxygen alone, but others have reported evidence of harm with an increased incidence of myocardial infarction in the NIPPV groups. CPAP has already been shown to be of benefit in this patient group (5).

Clinical Bottom Line

The evidence for the use of NIPPV in acute pulmonary oedema is moot. At present CPAP is the safer proven option.


  1. Mehta S, Jay GD, Woolard RH, et al. Randomized, prospective trial of bilevel versus continuous positive airway pressure in acute pulmonary edema. Crit Care Med 1997;25(4):620-8.
  2. Sharon A, Shpirer I, Kaluski E, et al. High-dose intravenous isosorbide-dinitrate is safer and better than Bi-PAP ventilation combined with conventional treatment for severe pulmonary edema. J Am Coll Cardiol 2000;36(3):832-7.
  3. Masip J, Betbese AJ, Paez J, et al. Non-invasive pressure support ventilation versus conventional oxygen therapy in acute cardiogenic pulmonary oedema: a randomised trial. Lancet 2000;356(9248):2126-32.
  4. Park M, Lorenzi-Filho G, Feltrim MI, et al. Oxygen therapy, continuous positive airway pressure, or non-invasive bilevel positive pressure ventilation in the treatment of acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema. Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia 2001;76(3):221-30.