Perspectives on advance care planning among patients recently requiring non-invasive ventilation for acute respiratory failure: A qualitative study using thematic analysis

Tracy A. Smith, Rebecca T. Disler, Christine R. Jenkins, Jane M. Ingham, Patricia M. Davidson

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Patients requiring non-invasive ventilation for acute-on-chronic respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure exacerbations may have a poor prognosis underscoring the importance of advance care planning. Aim: We aimed to describe attitudes to, and experiences of, discussing the future among patients recently treated with non-invasive ventilation. Design: Qualitative research using thematic analysis. Settings and participants: Tertiary teaching hospital. Patients with acute hypercapnic respiratory failure requiring non-invasive ventilation. Results: Individuals recently treated with non-invasive ventilation describe feeling the future is beyond their control and instead controlled by their illness. Participants often recognised their poor prognosis but avoided discussing some difficult topics. The majority preferred not to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation but most had not discussed this with healthcare professionals. When participants voiced concerns about their future health to family members, they were met with polarised responses. Some encountered willingness for further discussion, while others met deflection, deterring further conversation. An overarching narrative of ‘Looking through my illness to an uncertain but concerning future’ unites these themes. Conclusion: This study suggests opportunities and barriers for advance care planning in individuals with chronic disease. Patients’ understanding of their prognosis and their attitudes to cardiopulmonary resuscitation suggests an opportunity for advance care planning. Structuring discussions around patients’ preferences for care during future exacerbations may foster a sense of control over the future despite illness. The diversity of familial responses to patients’ concerns about their future health has implications for advance care planning. These findings have the potential to improve care for patients with respiratory failure and suggest an important ongoing research agenda.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-574
Number of pages9
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • attitude to health
  • chronic disease
  • chronic obstructive
  • heart failure
  • patient-centred care
  • Pulmonary disease
  • qualitative research
  • respiratory insufficiency

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