How to Use a Ventilator: Complete Guide to Mechanical Ventilation


You just found out that a loved one needs to be placed on a ventilator.

What does that mean? How does a ventilator work? What does it do for a person with medical need?

The truth is that mechanical ventilation can be a wonderful way to help a person that is struggling to breathe on their own. Modern medicine can be so amazing!

If you’d like to learn more about ventilation and how it may be able to assist your friend or family member, keep reading as we explain.

What Can Modern Ventilators Help With?

The main reason that a person might want to use mechanical ventilation is as a type of life support. This is a machine that will help someone breathe when they are unable to do so on their own.

A ventilator is called a mechanical ventilator, a respirator, or even a breathing machine. A lot of patients that will need to be hooked up to a ventilator will have severe illnesses and typically will be housed in a hospital’s ICU (intensive care).

If someone needs a ventilator for a long amount of time, they may be able to have the support at home, in a different hospital unit, in a rehab facility, or elsewhere. These machines are meant to be a way to aid in health and life for people that can’t breathe without extra help.

A ventilator will typically be covered by insurance if it is a necessary emergency procedure. It can be a life-saver in certain situations.

Main Uses for Mechanical Ventilation

The main reasons that a person would need ventilation from a machine are to:

  • Get more oxygen into the lungs and the body
  • Help the body excrete carbon dioxide
  • Make it easier to breathe naturally or without aid
  • Breathe for someone that is simply unable to physically get air into their body

For instance, if someone has a medical condition or severe muscle damage, it is likely that breathing may be intensely difficult or impossible for them to breathe naturally. A ventilator can help with this!

Although mechanical ventilation may be a great way to support someone in medical need, it can also have its risks. It does not fix the issue that the person had in the first place, but it helps a person stay alive until other treatments can be used or the person heals.

A person may be on a ventilator for a few hours or a few days, but it can be much longer. It depends on several factors, including overall health. Some people are never able to get off of a ventilator, so it really is a case-by-case basis.

Use of a Ventilator for Health

The way that it all works is that a tube is passed through the mouth or nose into a person’s windpipe. It is called intubation when the endotracheal tube is placed into the windpipe of the person.

For some people, surgery is necessary to have a hole placed in the neck for the tube to go through if going through the nose or mouth is not possible. In this case, a tracheostomy tube is used. This type of tube can stay in place for much longer and can allow a person to talk with an adapter.

The ventilator is connected to the tube and allows the gas, which is air plus oxygen, to flow into the person’s lungs. These machines may help a person breathe entirely or may supplement a low amount of natural breathing.

Ventilators are able to deliver more oxygen than methods that go by a mask because they are more direct. They can have positive and expiratory pressure as well, which helps the lungs stay open while air comes in and out.

Ventilators and the Medical System

Now that you know what a ventilator is, you likely understand that it can be a very useful tool in certain medical situations.

Ventilators help people breathe and can supplement breathing for people that need extra oxygen. 

In urgent care situations, intubation may be necessary. If you want to contact us to get some more information about this, feel free to do so! We would be happy to answer your questions and give you more information.

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