Respiratory failure is when blood gases are not being properly exchanged in the lungs, leading to there being too much carbon dioxide or too little oxygen in the arteries.  It can be caused by hyperventilation, being unable to breathe at a proper rate, obstruction of the airways, reduced ability to breathe, a decrease in lung volume, weakness or paralysis in the muscles around the lungs, or deformations of the chest cavity.

Respiratory failure at Wikipedia

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