What are Invasive Ventilators and Why are They Important?

Patients with respiratory illnesses often suffer from breathing difficulties due to lung damage. What happens is, to counter the damage to the lungs, the body’s immune system sends in immune cells through expanded blood vessels. However, with more fluid entering the lungs, patients find it hard to breathe, and, as a result, their oxygen levels drop. In such cases, they may require breathing support from ventilators that push oxygenated air that they critically need into their lungs.

There are two types of ventilators—non-invasive ventilator and invasive ventilator.

If the patients have mild symptoms, the medical providers may fit them with non-invasive ventilator like nasal masks, face masks, or mouthpieces. With these, pressurized air or gas mixtures can push into the lungs and alleviate the breathing issues.

For seriously ill patients, it is necessary to use invasive ventilators to help them breathe. By pushing oxygenated air into the lungs, the invasive ventilator forces the accumulated fluid and carbon dioxide out.

Invasive Ventilators

Invasive ventilators are commonly used in intensive care units to provide life-saving care to critically ill patients. This type of ventilator supplies oxygen-infused air to the patient through a breathing tube that connects to the machine. There are two types of breathing tubes— an endotracheal tube and a tracheostomy tube. A patient may have one or the other. Inserting an endotracheal tube involves an intubation procedure in which the tube goes down to the lungs through the nose or the mouth. In the tracheostomy procedure, the tracheostomy tube goes into the windpipe through a hole cut into the neck.

Alongside the tubing with connector, an invasive ventilator’s breathing circuit usually has other supportive devices such as heated breathing circuit, oxygen generator, nasal oxygen, respiratory gas, filter, and humidifier. It will also have an airway monitoring system, a respirator, and a positive breathing attachment.

How Invasive Ventilators Work

If the doctors notice signs of respiratory failure—for instance, an increased breathing rate of 28 breaths per minute instead of the normal 15 breaths per minute, and distress, discomfort, and confusion in the patient with the drop in oxygen levels and rise in carbon dioxide levels—they will decide to put the patient on an invasive ventilator. The procedure involves sedating the patient and giving him or her a muscle relaxant. The doctors will then insert the endotracheal tube or the tracheostomy tube.

The invasive ventilator will then use positive pressure ventilation to begin pushing air into the lungs to raise the oxygen levels to normal. It will use negative pressure ventilation to get rid of carbon dioxide. Through this, the patient can continue to have normal chest movements, and the respiration process will occur unimpeded. The ventilator’s humidifier will infuse the supplied air with heat and moisture. That is necessary to ensure that the air remains compatible with the body temperature of the patient.

The Importance of Invasive Ventilators

Generally, doctors will resort to using invasive ventilators only if non-invasive ventilators do not produce the desired results and the patients require more respiratory support. Here are some of the ways in which an invasive ventilator can help save a life:

• Breathing becomes stressful and painful for patients who are struggling with respiratory problems. When they are put on ventilators, their respiratory muscles receive a respite and they are able to relax.

• Due to the invasive ventilator, the patient gets an adequate amount of oxygenated air and can comfortably breathe out carbon dioxide. He or she will not suffer from any inhalation injury.

• By ensuring a stable and supported breathing airway, the patient has a better chance of recovery. The lungs and the respiratory system get time to heal and can return to their normal functionality.

There are some risks involved in using invasive ventilators. Patients may have to contend with the possibility of lung damage if the small alveoli open and relax too suddenly or if the lungs inflate too much. Additionally, if the endotracheal tube or the tracheostomy tube is infected, it can lead to lung infection. However, by sanitizing all the ventilation equipment and having an experienced and skillful doctor to perform the intubation or tracheostomy can reduce these risks to a considerable extent.