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How Does a Ventilator Work?

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How Does a Ventilator Work?

Over the past few years the world has been taken by storm with loads of medical terminology and procedures without fully understanding what it all means. For example, we hear of people being put on ventilators and TV medical dramas make intubation the trendiest of procedures, but what exactly are they and when are they necessary?

A mechanical ventilator, or breathing machine, is used when a patient is experiencing a condition that makes it extremely difficult to breathe or get enough oxygen into their blood. This condition is referred to as respiratory failure. A patient may be fitted with a mask in order to get air from the ventilator into their lungs, or they may need a breathing tube if the problem is more severe. This is where the infamous term, intubation comes from. Endotracheal intubation is a medical procedure in which a tube is placed into the windpipe (trachea) through the mouth or nose. In most emergency situations, it is placed through the mouth.

Mechanical ventilators act as bellows to move air in and out of your lungs. A respiratory therapist and provider set the ventilator to control how often it pushes air into a patient’s lungs and how much air they get.

Mechanical ventilators are mainly used in hospitals and in transport systems such as ambulances and MEDEVAC air transport. In some cases, they can be used at home, if the illness is long term and the caregivers at home receive training and have adequate nursing and other resources in the home. Being on a ventilator may make you more susceptible to pneumonia, cause damage to your vocal cords, or introduce other risks.

When it is time for a patient to be taken off of a ventilator it is necessary for them to be weaned from the amount of air that the machine is providing so that they may regain their own strength and means of breathing independently.

Though it may not be as glamorous as TV medical dramas, and though patients aren’t intubated for every ailment, it is still important to have access to such life saving machines as mechanical ventilators and breathing tubes.

Campbell County Medical Group (CCMG) Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine diagnoses and treats diseases of the lungs and respiratory system. Respiratory Therapy provides comprehensive care and testing for patients suffering from breathing disorders caused by heart or lung disease

If you may be experiencing severe or chronic breathing difficulties, reach out to our Pulmonary team at 307.688.3615


Endotracheal intubation: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2019).

Ventilator/Ventilator Support - What Is a Ventilator? | NHLBI, NIH. (n.d.).

  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine