INTRODUCTION — Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a multisystem disorder caused by pathogenic variants in the CFTR gene (CF transmembrane conductance regulator) [1,2]. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Genetics and pathogenesis".)
Pulmonary disease remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in people with CF , and pulmonary exacerbations are associated with accelerated loss of lung function, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality [4-7]. The causes of pulmonary exacerbations are multifactorial, with infection playing an important but somewhat ill-defined role . The development of treatments that reduce the frequency and severity of pulmonary exacerbations is an important contributor to the marked improvements in survival of people with CF (figure 1).
Considerable variation exists in how patients with CF are treated for pulmonary exacerbations [9-12], despite the availability of clinical guidelines [13-16]. The recommendations in this topic review generally adhere to published guidelines and/or conform to common clinical practices.
Treatment of pulmonary exacerbations in CF is multifaceted, involving antibiotics, chest physiotherapy, inhaled medications to promote secretion clearance, and, sometimes, antiinflammatory agents. An overview of these interventions will be reviewed here. Selection of antibiotics for pulmonary exacerbations is discussed in a separate topic review. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations".)
Other aspects of pulmonary disease in CF are discussed in separate topic reviews:
PULMONARY EXACERBATIONS IN CYSTIC FIBROSIS
Definition — The clinical course of most patients with CF is punctuated by acute episodes of worsening pulmonary status that are referred to as "pulmonary exacerbations" [17,18]. The CF field has not reached a consensus definition of pulmonary exacerbation for the purposes of patient care or clinical research [19,20]. In many clinical trials, exacerbations were defined solely on the criterion that a participant's CF clinician initiated antibiotic treatment for an acute worsening of clinical status [10,21]. Other trials have defined exacerbations based on specific symptoms and signs, but these criteria do not perform well at identifying those patients whose CF clinicians choose to treat with antibiotics [19,20]. Part of the difficulty may be that pulmonary exacerbations are not a single entity but have differing etiologies, inflammatory profiles, and clinical outcomes [22,23].
Diagnosis — In clinical practice, a pulmonary exacerbation is diagnosed based on changes from an individual patient's recent baseline health status , typically including several of the following symptoms and signs:
•New or increased cough
•New or increased sputum production or chest congestion
•Decreased exercise tolerance or new or increased dyspnea with exertion or at rest
•Decreased appetite and possible weight loss
•Increased respiratory rate at rest
•Change in sputum appearance
•Fever (present in a minority of patients)
•Increased nasal congestion or drainage
●Pulmonary function tests – Reductions in pulmonary function as measured by forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) are often present during pulmonary exacerbations but are not required for its diagnosis, although large decrements in FEV1 (eg, more than a 10 percent decline from baseline) are more likely to cause clinicians to initiate treatment in patients presenting with typical signs and symptoms of an exacerbation . Although it was hypothesized that routine monitoring by home spirometry would promote earlier detection of pulmonary exacerbations and therefore better outcomes, a randomized 52-week study in which people with CF were monitored twice weekly with home spirometry failed to detect long-term benefit relative to usual management, as measured by rate of decline of FEV1 . Contrasting results were found in a report from another CF center that instituted a new protocol in which a drop in FEV1 (≥5 points from baseline) triggered treatment for a pulmonary exacerbation and reported subsequent improvement in mean FEV1 across the center's patient population .
●Other – Chest radiographs may not show significant changes over baseline and are not routinely obtained for people with mild symptoms. A decrease in arterial hemoglobin oxygen saturation may occur but is not required to diagnose an exacerbation.
There are no absolute thresholds that determine a pulmonary exacerbation. For example, an individual who is asymptomatic at baseline is typically considered to have a pulmonary exacerbation if there is a new cough with sputum production, fatigue, and decreased appetite, even though FEV1 may remain in normal range .
Severity grading — CF clinicians routinely distinguish mild from severe exacerbations when planning treatment [9,29], although there are no protocols for severity grading . A common approach is to consider the degree of worsening from baseline of each of the patient's signs and symptoms and arrive at a global assessment of the extent of decline. As examples:
●In an individual with mild pulmonary disease at baseline, an exacerbation is considered severe if the acute illness is characterized by the onset of a productive cough and a large decline in FEV1 (eg, greater than 10 percent).
●In an individual with severe pulmonary disease at baseline, an exacerbation is considered mild if the cough, sputum production, exercise tolerance, and FEV1 worsened minimally but perceptibly from prior baseline status.
Incidence — The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry reported that, in 2022, 10 percent of children and 15 percent of adults had at least one pulmonary exacerbation severe enough to be treated with intravenous antibiotics in 2021, down from 31.6 percent in 2019 [3,31]. A major driver of the decreased incidence is the availability of the highly effective CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) modulator elexacaftor-tezacaftor-ivacaftor, which brings treatment to approximately 94 percent of patients ≥6 years of age (see "Cystic fibrosis: Treatment with CFTR modulators"). The improvement was probably also related to changes in exposure to respiratory viruses during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic due to social distancing and mask wearing .
The risk of pulmonary exacerbation increases with age, female sex, declining lung function, CF-related diabetes, and cirrhosis . A strong predictor of developing a pulmonary exacerbation is having had one or more exacerbations during the previous year. Other risk factors include nonadherence to chronic CF treatments and depression [34,35].
Viruses — Viruses are detected in many cases of acute exacerbations in children with CF, and there is some evidence that they are important contributors to declining pulmonary function. Among children with a pulmonary exacerbation during the winter months, viruses were detected by a molecular method in 34 to 60 percent [36,37]. The pathogens were coxsackie/echovirus, rhinovirus/enterovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and influenza. Among adults with pulmonary exacerbations, viruses were detected in 10 to 25 percent, especially rhinovirus, enterovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, coronaviruses, and influenza [38-40].
Bacteria — Most people with CF have chronic bacterial infection of the airways, as demonstrated by sputum cultures; the prevalence of each bacterial type varies with the age of the patient (figure 2). (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for chronic pulmonary infection", section on 'Pathogens'.)
Important pathogens include (table 1):
●Staphylococcus aureus (methicillin-sensitive or methicillin-resistant species)
●Burkholderia cepacia complex
●Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae
Anaerobic bacteria are frequently identified, but their role in pulmonary exacerbations is uncertain [41-43]. Nonculture-based assays to identify bacteria have shown that the number of species present in respiratory secretions from CF patients is often considerably higher than what is revealed by culture-based methods, with substantial variation among patients .
Although bacteria are clearly involved in the pathophysiology of pulmonary exacerbations in CF, the mechanisms are uncertain [8,45]. Most exacerbations are not associated with the appearance of new bacterial species or strains. Furthermore, there is no consistent pattern of change in bacterial communities leading up to pulmonary exacerbations .
Inflammation — The CF airway is characterized by chronic neutrophil-rich inflammation (see "Cystic fibrosis: Clinical manifestations of pulmonary disease"). Inflammatory markers in serum and airway secretions increase during pulmonary exacerbations [22,46,47] and decrease with treatment . Although pulmonary infection is a major contributor to the airway inflammation, there is some evidence that CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) deficiency itself can cause inflammation in the absence of infection . During an exacerbation, bacterial or viral infection induces further inflammation, which contributes to the lung damage. As a result, some antiinflammatory strategies are effective at limiting lung damage. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Antiinflammatory therapy'.)
SITE OF CARE — Severe pulmonary exacerbations usually require hospitalization to adequately manage the complex regimen; closely monitor symptoms and laboratory test results; and ensure intensive airway clearance therapy, nutrition, and rest.
Home management of exacerbations
●Mild exacerbations – Most mild exacerbations can be managed in an outpatient setting, using oral and/or inhaled antibiotics and intensified airway clearance therapies. Clinical care should include counseling to encourage close adherence to the regimen and close follow-up to monitor progress. Some patients with mild exacerbations will still require hospitalization and/or intravenous antibiotics, particularly if they show inadequate improvement or if they have failed outpatient oral/inhaled regimens during prior episodes. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations", section on 'Severity of the exacerbation'.)
●Moderate exacerbations – Moderate or severe pulmonary exacerbations are often managed in an inpatient setting. However, home management may be appropriate for select patients with nonsevere exacerbations and sufficient support to ensure optimal treatment. When considering home therapy for a pulmonary exacerbation, resources must be available at home to replicate the hospital program, including the prescribed antibiotics and close adherence to airway clearance therapies (inhaled agents and chest physiotherapy), with provisions for rest and good nutrition . Children require greater assistance than adults to accomplish these goals, and adult supervision is needed even for teenagers. In considering home treatment for children, one must consider the impact of lost work hours, the number of other children in the household, the number and competence of available adult caregivers, and family stress before deciding whether home treatment is preferable to hospitalization.
Concern over hospital costs as well as the preference of many patients have encouraged home treatment with intravenous antibiotics for pulmonary exacerbations in CF. Although studies vary in their conclusions, a preponderance of evidence suggests that in-hospital treatment may be more effective. This was shown in a large prospective study of standardized care for pulmonary exacerbations (STOP2 study ), in which 33 percent of participants received treatment exclusively in hospital, 21 percent exclusively at home, and 46 percent initiated in hospital and completed at home . The mean increase in percent predicted forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of those treated only in hospital (8.0, 95% CI 6.7-9.4) was significantly better than those treated only at home (5.0, 95% CI 3.5-6.5) or at both locations (7.0, 95% CI 5.9-8.1). Because the participants were not randomly assigned to treatment location, sophisticated statistical analyses were used to adjust for assignment bias in these studies, but residual bias cannot be excluded. Similar conclusions were reached in another registry-based study of 4497 pulmonary exacerbations, which found that recovery of FEV1 to ≥90 percent of baseline level was 9.1 percent more likely when all treatment was delivered in-hospital compared with treatment delivered entirely at home . By contrast, some earlier and smaller studies detected no significant differences in outcomes for patients treated with intravenous antibiotics at home, including one very small randomized trial (31 exacerbations, 17 participants) [52,53] and an observational study (1535 participants) .
Intensive care unit treatment — Indications for intensive care unit (ICU) care include:
●Respiratory insufficiency requiring respiratory support (see 'Respiratory support' below)
●Severe hemoptysis (see "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Hemoptysis')
Outcomes for adults and children with CF who require ICU care were previously reported to be uniformly poor  but have fortunately improved [56,57]. Advanced CF lung disease should not be considered a contraindication to mechanical ventilation or ICU care in general, regardless of the patient's lung transplant status . (See "Cystic fibrosis: Management of advanced lung disease", section on 'Intensive care unit treatment'.)
An episode of respiratory failure should prompt discussion of end-of-life care, quality of life, and possible indications for lung transplantation. Ideally, these discussions should occur when a patient's clinical trajectory suggests increasing risk for respiratory failure but well before ICU care is needed. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Management of advanced lung disease", section on 'Lung transplant evaluation'.)
TREATMENT — The goals of treatment are to return the patient's symptoms to baseline and recover any lost forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), which are not always possible. (See 'Prognosis' below.)
Antibiotics — Treatment of exacerbations with systemic antibiotics is a mainstay of CF care and is recommended in virtually all consensus guidelines. Selection and dosing of antibiotics are summarized in the table (table 2) and discussed separately. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations".)
Periodic elective hospitalization for preventive therapy (referred to as "clean outs") is not recommended, as reviewed separately. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for chronic pulmonary infection", section on 'Periodic hospitalizations'.)
Continuation of the chronic treatment regimen — The patient's chronic treatment regimen should be continued or intensified during an acute exacerbation, as recommended by virtually all guidelines, although high-quality studies are generally lacking to assess this strategy . The role for inhaled antibiotics during pulmonary exacerbations is uncertain. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations", section on 'Managing the chronically prescribed antibiotics'.)
Key components include:
●CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) modulators. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Treatment with CFTR modulators".)
●Airway clearance therapy, with inhaled agents (eg, inhaled dornase alfa or hypertonic saline) and chest physiotherapy. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Airway clearance therapies'.)
●Antiinflammatory medications (eg, azithromycin, ibuprofen) in selected patients. Decisions about continuing or suspending azithromycin during a pulmonary exacerbation are discussed separately. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations", section on 'Managing the chronically prescribed antibiotics' and "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Antiinflammatory therapy'.)
●Optimization of nutritional status. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Nutritional issues", section on 'Nutrition support'.)
●Ensuring glucose control for those with CF-related diabetes. (See "Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes mellitus", section on 'Treatment'.)
●Exercise, as tolerated. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Chest physiotherapy'.)
Many patients have poor adherence to these treatments when they are at their baseline status and require encouragement to increase their use during exacerbations . If possible, the frequency of airway clearance treatments should be increased during exacerbations beyond what is prescribed as part of the chronic therapy regimen (eg, increasing to four times per day), as recommended by Cystic Fibrosis Foundation guidelines .
Other medications (for selected patients)
Bronchodilators — During pulmonary exacerbations, our practice is to administer short-acting bronchodilator medications:
●Prior to airway clearance therapy and exercise
●Prior to other inhaled medications for those who develop bronchial constriction in response to them
●As a rescue medication for those with airway hyperreactivity
We use these same indications for bronchodilators during baseline health. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Bronchodilators'.)
Evidence supporting routine use of bronchodilators during pulmonary exacerbations is limited. Poor responsiveness to bronchodilators was reported in a retrospective study in which the median bronchodilator-induced increase in FEV1 was only 4.3 percent and only 9 percent of the participants met standard criteria for being responsive to bronchodilator treatment . Somewhat better bronchodilator responsiveness was shown in a randomized crossover study that compared the effects of albuterol with placebo (normal saline) in 24 hospitalized patients who were evaluated after they had been on antibiotic therapy for at least six days . A significant increase in FEV1 was seen 45 minutes following albuterol administration but not following normal saline (mean FEV1 increase 14.8 versus 1 percent). However, by the following morning, there was no between-group difference in FEV1. No studies have evaluated more prolonged effects of bronchodilators on pulmonary exacerbations, eg, duration of antibiotic treatment, recovery to baseline FEV1, or improvement in symptoms.
Glucocorticoids — There is considerable variation in practice regarding use of glucocorticoids for pulmonary exacerbations, and evidence is limited [11,61].
Our practice is to administer a course of prednisone (2 mg/kg/day [maximum 60 mg daily] for five days) to the small subset of CF patients whose exacerbations have characteristics of an acute asthmatic episode (eg, chest tightness, wheezing, acute symptomatic response to inhaled beta-adrenergic agonists). We use this strategy because glucocorticoids are beneficial for asthmatic symptoms in patients without CF. (See "Acute asthma exacerbations in children younger than 12 years: Emergency department management", section on 'Systemic glucocorticoids' and "Acute exacerbations of asthma in adults: Home and office management", section on 'Initiation of oral glucocorticoids'.)
Other CF clinicians administer a brief course of glucocorticoids for all patients with exacerbations, regardless of the presence of asthma-like symptoms. This strategy is based on the assumption that acute exacerbations in CF are similar to acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults (see "COPD exacerbations: Management"). However, we do not use this approach, because the few available studies suggest that systemic glucocorticoids do not improve pulmonary outcomes in people with CF and may contribute to dysglycemia [62-64].
Another strategy used by some clinicians is to administer systemic glucocorticoids to patients whose response to initial treatment is deemed suboptimal. Because of the scarcity of data evaluating glucocorticoids for pulmonary exacerbations, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation did not make a recommendation regarding their use . A clinical trial is underway that is evaluating the efficacy and safety of oral prednisone as adjunctive treatment for people with insufficient response to initial antibiotic treatment (NCT03070522).
●Influenza – Antiviral treatment is indicated for people with CF with known or suspected influenza because they are at high risk for severe or complicated disease. Antiviral treatment should be initiated regardless of the duration of symptoms or severity of initial illness, although it is likely to have the greatest benefit if it is initiated within 48 hours after symptom onset. Indications and regimens are discussed separately. (See "Seasonal influenza in children: Management", section on 'Antiviral therapy' and "Seasonal influenza in nonpregnant adults: Treatment".)
Annual vaccination against viral influenza is recommended for all CF patients older than six months of age, using an inactivated vaccine delivered by injection. Vaccination is highly preferred over the use of pre- or postexposure chemoprophylaxis . (See "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease", section on 'Prevention of infection'.)
●COVID-19 – CF is a condition associated with a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Patients with CF should follow CDC recommendations for higher-risk individuals regarding vaccination and treatment of infection (see "COVID-19: Vaccines" and "COVID-19: Management in children" and "COVID-19: Management of adults with acute illness in the outpatient setting"). Of note, nirmatrelvir-ritonavir, which is used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 disease in adults, is a strong cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A) inhibitor and will reduce the clearance of CFTR modulators. Administration of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir requires large reductions in modulator doses ; consultation with a pharmacist is advisable.
●Supplemental oxygen – We administer supplemental oxygen as needed during pulmonary exacerbations, targeting an oxygen hemoglobin saturation by pulse oximetry of 88 to 92 percent or an arterial blood oxygen tension of 60 to 70 mmHg. This approach is based on the guidelines that are used for patients with acute exacerbations of COPD. No CF-specific clinical trials of supplemental oxygen administration have been performed that would modify these COPD recommendations. After initiation of supplemental oxygen, patients should be monitored for deterioration in mental status due to hypercapnia, although the incidence of this complication is low. (See "COPD exacerbations: Management".)
●Noninvasive ventilation – We offer noninvasive positive pressure ventilation to patients who develop acute respiratory failure (eg, acute elevation of arterial carbon dioxide tension to >45 mmHg or hypercapnic acidosis) and who have none of the contraindications (eg, severely impaired consciousness, inability to cooperate, or inability to protect their airway). The noninvasive ventilation regimen must accommodate intermittent treatments for assisting airway secretion clearance (inhaled airway clearance medications and chest physiotherapy). The decisions are consistent with guidelines for people with COPD who develop acute ventilatory failure during exacerbations. (See "Noninvasive ventilation in adults with acute respiratory failure: Benefits and contraindications".)
The possibility that noninvasive ventilation might enhance airway clearance therapy was evaluated in a randomized study of 38 participants admitted for treatment of a pulmonary exacerbation . There was no significant increased rate of improvement in FEV1 or symptom scores in the noninvasive ventilation group . Thus, we do not recommend noninvasive ventilation for the purposes of enhancing airway clearance therapy.
●Invasive ventilation – CF patients with acute respiratory failure are candidates for endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation, if noninvasive ventilation fails and if the intervention is congruent with the patient's goals of care. The decisions are consistent with guidelines used for people with COPD and acute respiratory failure. (See "Invasive mechanical ventilation in acute respiratory failure complicating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease".)
Input from the appropriate transplant center should be sought to determine how intubation with mechanical ventilation will affect the patient's listing for transplantation. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Management of advanced lung disease".)
●Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support (ECMO) – When adequate ventilation and/or oxygenation cannot be supported by assisted ventilation, ECMO has been used to successfully bridge CF patients to lung transplantation [68,69]. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Management of advanced lung disease", section on 'Intensive care unit treatment'.)
Individuals who require invasive ventilation should also be considered for early institution of ECMO, if this is congruent with the patient's goals of care and with input from the pertinent transplant center, as outlined in Cystic Fibrosis Foundation guidelines for advanced CF lung disease . (See "Extracorporeal life support in adults in the intensive care unit: Overview".)
PROGNOSIS — Following a pulmonary exacerbation, recovery of the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) decrement is often incomplete. With each exacerbation, between 12 and 35 percent of patients fail to recover to at least 90 percent of their baseline FEV1 [10,70,71]. Quality of life also declines with increasing numbers of pulmonary exacerbations . Following treatment of a pulmonary exacerbation, symptomatic improvements are not well correlated with FEV1 recovery . As an example, in a prospective study of 58 adults with CF, 23 percent of pulmonary exacerbations were associated with ongoing symptoms after 14 days of antibiotics, with further symptomatic improvement when treatment was extended to 21 days . However, continuation of antibiotic treatment was not associated with further improvement in FEV1 or body mass index. These observations are relevant to decisions about duration of treatment. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations", section on 'Duration of treatment'.)
Given the adverse consequences of exacerbations, reducing exacerbation frequency is an important rationale for many of the chronic treatments for CF pulmonary disease. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Overview of the treatment of lung disease" and "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for chronic pulmonary infection" and "Cystic fibrosis: Treatment with CFTR modulators".)
SOCIETY GUIDELINE LINKS — Links to society and government-sponsored guidelines from selected countries and regions around the world are provided separately. (See "Society guideline links: Cystic fibrosis".)
SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
●Definition – In clinical practice, a pulmonary exacerbation is diagnosed based on a clinician's global assessment of changes from the patient's recent baseline health status, including changes in symptoms (cough, sputum production, exercise tolerance) with or without changes in pulmonary function tests. (See 'Diagnosis' above.)
●Pathogenesis – The clinical course of cystic fibrosis (CF) is frequently complicated by acute pulmonary exacerbations, superimposed on a gradual decline in pulmonary function. Mechanisms include:
•Bacteria – Bacteria play an important but somewhat ill-defined role in the pathophysiology of pulmonary exacerbations. Key bacterial pathogens are discussed separately (table 1). (See 'Bacteria' above and "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for chronic pulmonary infection", section on 'Pathogens'.)
•Viruses – Viral pathogens frequently play a role in initiating exacerbations and may be important contributors to declining pulmonary function. Influenza is an important vaccine-preventable pathogen. (See 'Viruses' above.)
•Antibiotics – Treatment of exacerbations with systemic antibiotics is a mainstay of CF care. Selection and dosing of antibiotics are summarized in the table (table 2) and discussed separately. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations".)
•Continuation of the chronic treatment regimen – The patient's chronic treatment regimen should be continued or intensified during an acute exacerbation, including CF transmembrane modulator (CFTR) therapy, airway clearance therapies, optimization of nutrition, and management of CF-related diabetes (if present). (See 'Continuation of the chronic treatment regimen' above.)
The role for inhaled antibiotics during pulmonary exacerbations is uncertain. (See "Cystic fibrosis: Antibiotic therapy for pulmonary exacerbations", section on 'Managing the chronically prescribed antibiotics'.)
•Antiviral agents – Antiviral treatment is indicated for people with CF with known or suspected influenza because they are at high risk for severe or complicated disease. Indications and regimens are discussed separately. (See "Seasonal influenza in children: Management", section on 'Antiviral therapy' and "Seasonal influenza in nonpregnant adults: Treatment".)
•Other medications – We use bronchodilators as pretreatment for airway clearance therapies and to treat asthma-like symptoms. We use glucocorticoids only for the small subset of patients with asthma-like symptoms, although practice varies. (See 'Bronchodilators' above and 'Glucocorticoids' above.)
●Respiratory support – People with respiratory failure or complications (hemoptysis, pneumothorax) are candidates for respiratory support during a pulmonary exacerbation, including supplemental oxygen, noninvasive ventilation, invasive ventilation, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support (ECMO). (See 'Respiratory support' above.)
An episode of respiratory failure should prompt discussion of end-of-life care, quality of life, and possible indications for lung transplantation. Advanced CF lung disease is not a contraindication to intensive care unit (ICU) admission or mechanical ventilation, regardless of the patient's lung transplant status. (See 'Intensive care unit treatment' above.)
●Prognosis – Following a pulmonary exacerbation, the recovery of lost forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) is often incomplete. Pulmonary exacerbations are associated with accelerated loss of lung function, decreased quality of life, and increased mortality. Thus, reducing the frequency and optimizing treatment of exacerbations is an important goal of CF care. (See 'Prognosis' above.)
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