Ventilator

A ventilator is a machine that helps to move air in and out of a person's lungs. It may be used to help someone breathe or completely control a person's breathing.

Common reasons for using a ventilator are because the person is too weak, injured or tired to breathe without help. In other words, a ventilator is used when a person would die without breathing support.

When you first see a ventilator being used on a loved one, it can be a little frightening. Sometimes, the ventilator's alarms may go off. There may be a noise and flashing lights. This is usually nothing to be afraid of. These are warnings meant to direct your caregiver to recheck connections and make sure everything is alright.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • When a person is on a ventilator, there is a tubing that goes from the ventilator to a tube in the person's mouth. The tube in the mouth goes to the lungs. The lungs are made up of tiny sacs filled with tiny blood vessels. These blood vessels take oxygen from the air and circulate it around the body via the bloodstream. If the body did not receive oxygen, it would suffocate.

  • The air delivered is warmed, moisturized and may contain additional oxygen.

  • Ventilators are powered by electricity. If the electricity goes off, there are emergency back-ups.

HOW DO WE KNOW IF IT IS WORKING WELL ENOUGH? IS THE PATIENT GETTING ENOUGH AIR?

  • There are settings that control the size of each breath and how often breaths occur. They are based on how a person normally breathes.

  • There are pressure monitors that help determine the size of the breath and show that the machine is properly connected.

  • There are displays your caregivers can use to adjust settings.

  • Blood tests called arterial blood gases (ABGs) may be drawn from an artery (a muscular vessel that carries oxygenated blood within the body) to see if the body is getting enough oxygen and doing well.

Your caregivers will help answer any questions you may have about the ventilator. Talk to them if you have concerns or you think something is wrong or not working correctly.