April 23, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Mechanical Ventilation

Posted in Articles of Interest tagged , , , , , at 10:25 am by D. Borst

So mechanical ventilators are perhaps one of the most important advances in critical care medicine ever. Critically ill patients get too ill to manage their own breathing, and to make sure that their bodies get enough of an air supply, hooking them up to a machine for hours or days has saved countless lives. It has also enabled many invasive surgeries that require the use of drugs that suppress the respiratory drive along with consciousness.

But as with all medical advances, ventilators do come with a cost. When a ventilator is put in, the physician sticks a tube down the patients trachea to make sure that air is going into the patients lungs and not into her stomach. Having a tube stuck down one’s throat precludes much movement, and also slightly abrades the surfaces it comes in contact with. This is postulated to cause the increase in nosocomial, or hospital acquired, infections such as pneumonia.

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