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Breathing Machines (Mechanical Ventilation)

What is mechanical ventilation?

Mechanical ventilation is the use of a machine to help your child breathe until he can breathe on his own. It gets oxygen into your child’s lungs and removes carbon dioxide from the body.

When is it used?

Mechanical ventilation may be used when your child is not able to breathe on his own, or to help him breathe more easily. In an emergency it can help your child stay alive. For example, a breathing machine may be used if your child has:

  • A serious lung injury or disease
  • Very low blood pressure, which can be caused by shock, infection, or heart failure
  • Severe asthma, bronchiolitis, or pneumonia
  • Any other injury, condition, or treatment that makes it hard for your child to breathe well on his own
  • Surgery with general anesthesia

How do I prepare my child for it?

In most cases a breathing machine is used in an emergency situation. Your healthcare provider will talk about choices for your child’s treatment and explain the procedure and any risks. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do and how long it may take your child to recover. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during mechanical ventilation?

Your child will be given medicine so that he or she is relaxing and sleeping while on the breathing machine. A tube will be put through your child’s mouth or nose into your child’s windpipe. The tube will be hooked up to the breathing machine. The tube keeps the airway open and is used to deliver air and oxygen to your child’s lungs and to remove carbon dioxide.

Your child may stay on the machine for several days, depending on how well he is breathing. Your child may have several blood tests while are on the machine to see how his lungs are working. When your child is healthy and strong enough to get enough oxygen on his own, the breathing machine may be slowly turned off while the tube is kept in place. The breathing machine may need to be adjusted several times over several hours while your child gets used to breathing on his own. The tube will be removed once your child is comfortably breathing on his own.

What happens after the procedure?

After the tube is removed, your child’s throat may feel sore and he may have some hoarseness for several days.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • Collapsed lung, which means air has entered the space between the rib cage and one of your child’s lungs, putting pressure on the lung and causing it to collapse
  • Injury to your child’s airway or the tiny air sacs in his lungs
  • Pneumonia, a lung infection

Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-05
Last reviewed: 2014-02-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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