A ventilator is a machine like a fancy computer, with knobs and buttons that are controlled by a respiratory therapist, nurse, or doctor.
Your loved one will receive medicine to be comfortable while on the ventilator. With this medicine, they may be too sleepy to open their eyes.
When someone is on a ventilator, they will not be able to talk. When your loved one is awake enough to open their eyes and move, you can give them something to write with.
The ventilator will make noises and has alarms that will alert the health care team when there may be something to fix.
Your loved one will be placed on a ventilator if they are not able to breathe their own. This may be because of a medical condition, an injury, accident, or illness.
When someone is very sick or has a bad injury, they may be too weak to breathe on their own. Using a ventilator allows their body to use that energy for healing and getting better.
Your loved one may need a ventilator to make sure they are getting enough oxygen. A ventilator will give your loved one as much or as little support as they need.
After surgery a patient may need to have a ventilator breathe for them if they have had medicine that causes them to be sleepy. They also need time to heal and get better.
A ventilator will also be used if there are many injuries that require the patient to barely move at all.
Most of the time, a patient will need the ventilator only for a short time (hours, days, or weeks), but, in rare cases, the patient may need the ventilator for long periods of time (months, or even years).
A patient on a ventilator will be watched closely in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Patients who need a ventilator for long periods of time may stay in a long-term care facility or center or even at home, and they usually have a tracheostomy (a tube that connects the ventilator to the trachea).
Suctioning is a word you will hear a lot when your loved one is on a ventilator.
Patients using a ventilator will be watched carefully for infections in their lungs.
When the ventilator is used for more than a few days, the patient may receive food and nutrients through tubes into either their veins or their stomach.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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