A mechanical ventilator is a machine that assists breathing. This article discusses the use of mechanical ventilators in infants.
WHY IS A MECHANICAL VENTILATOR USED?
A ventilator is used to provide breathing support for ill or immature babies. Sick or premature babies often have breathing problems, and cannot breathe adequately on their own. They need assistance from a ventilator to provide “good” air (oxygen) to the lungs and to remove “bad” air (carbon dioxide).
HOW IS A MECHANICAL VENTILATOR PLACED?
A ventilator is a bedside machine that is attached to the breathing tube that sick babies have placed in their windpipe. Caregivers can adjust the ventilator as needed, depending on the baby's physical findings, blood gas measurements, and x-rays.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A MECHANICAL VENTILATOR?
Most babies who need ventilator assistance have some degree of lung problems, including fragile lungs, which are at risk for injury. Sometimes the delivery of oxygen under pressure can result in damage to the fragile air sacs. This can lead to air leaks.
Long-term damage may also occur, resulting in a form of chronic lung disease that is called bronchopulmonary dysplasia . This is why the caregivers closely monitor and attempt to “wean” or decrease the settings on the ventilator whenever possible. It is the baby, however, who determines the level of support needed in most circumstances.