A ventilator is a machine to support breathing. It pushes air and oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide. Patients can be on a ventilator due to:

  • drowsiness
  • coma
  • nerve damage that affects breathing
  • respiratory failure (for example from severe pneumonia)
  • during recovery after a major operation

The patient is connected to the ventilator through a breathing tube. One type of tube goes through the mouth to the lungs. This is called an “endotracheal tube” (ETT). Another type of tube goes directly into the windpipe. It is called a tracheostomy tube. Some people call it a “trachy” for short.

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This topic was reviewed by an intensive care medicine specialist in July 2022.

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