Several different types of mechanical ventilators exist, with each one having certain specifics that are tailored to handle common as well as critical respiratory emergencies. It is important to recognize when a person is in respiratory distress, as a mechanical ventilator may help in supporting a person's life until he can be evaluated by healthcare specialists.
A mechanical ventilator is a machine that creates a controlled flow of oxygen and air that passes into the lungs of patients who are unable to sustain adequate respiratory effort. The primary reasons for using mechanical ventilators are to decrease the work of breathing and to improve gas exchange in the lungs. Mechanical ventilators can deliver different types of breaths, including volume control, pressure control, volume assist, pressure assist and pressure support. The use of a mechanical ventilator may require intubation, which is a procedure in which medical personnel place a tube through the mouth down into the trachea. This tube is then connected to the ventilator and helps the patient breathe.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS)/Transport Ventilators
EMS/Transport ventilators are smaller in size, more durable and can be powered pneumatically or via AC/DC power sources. They are easy to use and can be deployed quickly in emergencies. Most of today's transport ventilators have an increased range of advanced capabilities in comparison with the hospital ventilator systems; however, the cost of the ventilator tends to increase with the number of capabilities. EMS/Transport ventilators usually have basic capabilities and are able to provide continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is used for mild to moderate breathing problems and does not require intubation. Another basic capability is conventional ventilation, which is for more severe breathing problems. Severe breathing problems require intubation.
Hospital/Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Ventilators
Hospital/ ICU ventilators are larger in size compared to transport ventilators and are mainly designed for use inside of the hospital. These ventilators run on AC power and usually have some source of back-up power. Hospital/ICU ventilators also provide greater control of a wide variety of ventilation parameters not available on EMS/Transport ventilators. They are similar to EMS/Transport ventilators in the way they provide basic capabilities such as CPAP and conventional ventilator settings; however, some carry a high frequency oscillator, which is used when a conventional ventilator is no longer an option. The high frequency oscillator inflates the lungs by providing constant pressure.
Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) Ventilators
NICU ventilators are a specialized subset of ICU (intensive care unit) ventilators that are designed to deliver smaller, more exact pressures and volumes required to ventilate infants. They usually have the same types as the Hospital/ICU ventilators with preset volume and pressure adjustments for the smaller lungs of infants.
Disaster ventilators are generally inexpensive, compactly stored and are used for mass casualties. These types of ventilators may have built-in compressors and can be battery or gas powered. They can replace hospital ventilators by providing CPAP or conventional ventilator settings when compressed oxygen has been depleted or during a long power outage.