A mechanical ventilator is an automatic machine designed to provide all or part of the work the body must do to move gas into and out of the lungs. The act of moving air into and out of the lungs is called breathing, or, more formally, ventilation. A ventilator is often used for short periods, such as during surgery when you’re under general anesthesia or during treatment for a serious lung disease or other condition that affects normal breathing. Some people may suffer from a condition where they need to use ventilators for a long period or even for the rest of their lives.
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The machine works by bringing oxygen to the lungs and taking carbon dioxide out of the lungs. This allows a patient who has trouble breathing to receive the proper amount of oxygen. It also helps the patient’s body to heal, since it eliminates the extra energy of labored breathing.
A ventilator blows air into the airway through a breathing tube. One end of the tube is inserted into patient’s windpipe and the other end is attached to the ventilator. The breathing tube serves as an airway by letting air and oxygen from the ventilator flows into the lungs. Depending on the patient’s medical condition, they may be able to use a respiratory mask instead of the breathing tubes.
What to expect while on a ventilator?
What to expect depends on the severity of the patient’s illness. For example, some people can resume regular activities, such as reading or watching television, while others need to be restrained to prevent them from pulling out their respiratory tubes.
Patients or caregivers also need to learn how to provide suctioning to prevent mucus from blocking the tubes.
Ventilators normally don’t cause pain. The breathing tube in patient’s airway may cause some discomfort. One of the most frustrating things about being on a ventilator is that the patient is not able to speak and eat. Instead of food, the health care team may give nutrients through a tube inserted into a vein. If a patient is on a ventilator for a long period, they will likely get food through a nasogastric, or feeding tube.
A ventilator greatly restricts patient’s activity and limits their movement. They may be able to sit up in bed or in a chair, but usually can’t move around much.
A silver lining with this situation is that a ventilator doesn’t cause any pain to the patient. However, there is a transition period where the patient may experience some discomfort while they get used to the device. Once the patient’s condition has improved, there is usually a “weaning off” period to get the person used to breathing on their own prior to removing the ventilator.