What is a Lung Ventilator?

Terri Forehand

Breathing is the mechanism of inhaling and exhaling. This is normally an involuntary action to which the human species does not give much thought. The lungs are designed to bring in necessary oxygen during inhalation and to get rid of carbon dioxide waste during exhalation. Illness or trauma, however, can damage this function of the lungs and require a lung ventilator to assist with breathing.

A lung ventilator may be necessary in situations where a patient's condition worsens and they are no longer able to breathe on their own.
A lung ventilator may be necessary in situations where a patient's condition worsens and they are no longer able to breathe on their own.

A lung ventilator takes the place of the spontaneous act of breathing by mechanically forcing air mixed with oxygen into the lungs of the patient. Tubing is connected between the patient's artificial airway and the ventilator. The machine's settings can be adjusted according to the needs of the patient and the orders of the patient's physician.

A human respiratory system.
A human respiratory system.

The lung ventilator will be set to either give a certain amount of pressure or a set amount of volume to the patient to create the inspiration and maintain lung expansion. The machine will then pause to allow the patient to exhale before the next inhalation breath is given. The patient will have a rise and fall of the chest wall similar to when taking a spontaneous breath.

Mechanical lung ventilation has made it possible to give patients better overall outcomes from illness and trauma.
Mechanical lung ventilation has made it possible to give patients better overall outcomes from illness and trauma.

Lung ventilators come in portable sizes that make it easier to transport patients. These portable ventilators make taking long-term ventilator-dependent children or adults to doctor appointments or social events much more convenient. Larger ventilators will be seen in the acute hospital setting. All ventilators run on electricity or a battery pack and require some form of humidification to keep the inhaled air moist and warm.

Lung ventilators can be set for respiratory rate, volume, and pressure. The choice will be what is best for the infant, child, or adult, depending on the illness or condition of the lungs, the size and weight of the patient, and the expected goal of lung ventilation. The purpose of the lung ventilator is to make certain that the patient inhales adequate oxygen and exhales the right amount of carbon dioxide. This entire process assists the lungs in performing oxygenation of the circulating blood volume and aids in returning the lungs to their normal state of independent breathing. Proper lung ventilation is essential in maintaining proper gas exchange at the cellular level and ensuring that oxygen reaches all the major organs and tissues during an illness or injury.

Lung ventilation with an adequate artificial airway and the appropriate ventilator can be maintained for hours or for weeks in an acute hospital setting. It can also be maintained successfully in the home setting for patients who have a long-term respiratory condition. Mechanical lung ventilation has made it possible to give patients more life expectancy and better overall outcomes from illness and trauma. Lung ventilators require trained personnel to properly maintain the machines and to ensure safe use with patients.

The lung ventilator can be set to either give a certain amount of pressure or a set amount of volume to the patient to create the inspiration and maintain lung expansion.
The lung ventilator can be set to either give a certain amount of pressure or a set amount of volume to the patient to create the inspiration and maintain lung expansion.

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