Things to Know about Ventilators

A ventilator is a mechanical device that supports breathing. A ventilator takes oxygen into the lungs and is used for patients who need assistance breathing. Ventilators are mainly used in hospitals and clinics.

Who needs a ventilator

Some people undergoing surgery
• When you undergo a surgical operation and if anesthesia is administered, you will need a ventilator. This is because the anesthesia process may impair breathing. Using a ventilator can ensure you breathe normally during the surgical operation.

People with impaired lung function
• If you sustain a disease, a condition or other factors that may negatively affect your breathing, you will need a ventilator to help you breathe easily. Under these conditions, you can breathe, but may feel pain and may not be able to breathe sufficiently.

Types of ventilators

• Invasive ventilators involve inserting the breathing tube into your windpipe (throat). The ventilator then pushes air into the lungs.

• Non-invasive ventilators involve using a nasal or face mask to extend support to the individual as opposed to doing the same through an endotracheal tube. Non-invasive ventilation is useful in acute respiratory failure without having to insert an endotracheal tube.

Benefits of using ventilators

• A ventilator is a device used for patients to make it easy for breathing. People whose lungs are not functioning normally and who are unable to breathe need a ventilator.

• Ventilators are beneficial in situations when the patient’s blood oxygen level is low or the carbon dioxide level in blood rises to a high level.

• In the former situation, the ventilator helps the patient to receive enough oxygen making it easy for him/her to breathe. In the latter situation, it helps to remove excess carbon dioxide in blood and eases discomfort.

Risks of using ventilators
There are always risks to using ventilators. These include infections and other disease conditions that may affect the patient. Patients carry the following risks:

Sinus infection
• Sinus infection is commonly developed by people on a ventilator. A patient can get the infection from the endotracheal tube that is inserted into the throat through the patient’s mouth or nose.

• Pneumonia is one of the most common and major risks from the use of a ventilator. The breathing tube used in the throat can allow bacteria to get into the lungs, which then leads to the infection.

Excessive pressure can cause lung problems
• When the ventilator supplies an excessive pressure of oxygen, it may lead to issues in the lungs. In addition, using a ventilator might be harmful to the lungs, if the lungs are not working normally.

Benefits and risks vary based on the type of ventilation used
One of the important benefits of ventilators is that they are lifesaving and life-extending devices. However, they also involve risks. The risks depend on the type of the machine used. For example, use of invasive ventilation carries the risk of pneumonia, damage to the lungs, blood clots, and so on.

Invasive ventilation
• Invasive ventilation is useful for patients who cannot regain the ability to breath normally on their own.

• Invasive ventilation may lead to impairment of normal mechanisms of getting rid of mucus from the respiratory tract. The nose and mouth easily become dry and the patient needs humidification.

Non-invasive ventilation
• As for non-invasive ventilation, use of this method is beneficial. There is no need of windpipe surgery, you can talk when on ventilation, less maintenance is needed and you can remove the device when you no longer need it.

• However, non-invasive ventilation is not suitable for all patients. It is not suitable for patients with respiratory failure, a diminished cough reflex, swallowing impairment, hemodynamic instability or multiple organ failure.

• Leakage in the mask can affect normal function of the eyes.

• The mask can also damage the skin over time because of the pressures.

In light of these benefits and risks, you should choose a type of ventilation based on your personal conditions and requirements. Always get the opinion of a qualified medical professional to help you make your healthcare decisions.