Respiratory failure may be associated with a variety of clinical manifestations. However, these are nonspecific, and very significant respiratory failure may be present without dramatic signs or symptoms. This emphasizes the importance of measuring arterial blood gases in all patients who are seriously ill or in whom respiratory failure is suspected.
Chest x-ray is essential. Echocardiography is not routinely done but is sometimes useful. Pulmonary functions tests, if feasible, may be helpful. Electrocardiography should be performed to evaluate the possibility of a cardiovascular cause of respiratory failure; it also may detect dysrhythmias resulting from severe hypoxemia or acidosis. Right-sided heart catheterization is controversial.
For more on the workup of respiratory failure, read here.
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Cite this: Ata Murat Kaynar. Fast Five Quiz: Are You Prepared to Confront Respiratory Failure? - Medscape - Nov 16, 2015.