Breathing Machine (Mechanical Ventilator)

What is a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator)?

A breathing machine helps the patient breathe. It is designed to help patients who cannot breathe adequately on their own. The breathing machine does not fix any problems of the lungs. It is a device that simply pushes air and oxygen into the lungs and withdraws carbon dioxide from the lungs. The lungs must function in order for the breathing machine to be effective.

When is a breathing machine used?

A breathing machine is used whenever a patient cannot breathe without assistance. Doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists all work to make sure a breathing machine is not used any longer than necessary. The goal when a breathing machine is first used is to get the patient to be able to breathe on their own, so that the breathing machine can be removed.

Does use of a breathing machine hurt?

Patients requiring the breathing machine may complain of discomfort from the endotracheal tube (breathing tube) or the tracheostomy tube. Some patients may cough and complain of being short of breath while on the breathing machine. With time, most patients adjust to the breathing machine and the tubes needed for the breathing machine.

How long is a breathing machine used?

The breathing machine can be used for a very short time (hours) or for a long time (years).

Are there any potential complications associated with use of a breathing machine?

Patients who require breathing machine support are at increased risk to develop pneumonia. Occasionally, patients may develop a collapsed lung. Both of these complications require treatment.