There are a few studies that analyze the characteristics of patients receiving mechanical ventilation. Most of these studies are focused on specific pathologies such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In the past decade, however, the Spanish Lung Failure Collaborative Group has coordinated three epidemiological studies [9-11] that help to better illustrate the profile of the patient requiring mechanical ventilation.
In our international studies, the median age of mechanically ventilated patients was 61 years in 1996  (interquartile range: 44-71), and 63 years (interquartile range: 48-73) in 1998 . Interestingly, in both studies approximately 25% of the patients were older than 75. This finding seems to indicate that many physicians do not consider this age to be a contraindication to ICU admission and the use of mechanical ventilation.
Distribution by gender was equal and similar in the observational studies [10, 11]. This is in contrast to several clinical trials of patients with ARDS , sepsis , or myocardial infarction , which all enrolled almost twice as many males as females.
Pathophysiological indications (hypoxemic respiratoryfailure or hypercapnic respiratoryfailure) for mechanical ventilation are well known  but there are fewer reports about the diseases that cause the respiratory distress. Again, most of these studies attempt to address the incidence of only one specific disease like COPD or
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