Certain illnesses, injuries and medical procedures may impair a person’s ability to breathe. If a patient cannot breathe on his or her own, doctors often intubate. This process requires inserting a tube into the individual’s trachea. Then, doctors attach the tube to a medical ventilator. When the process is successful, the ventilator helps the lungs function.

Even when they are necessary, intubation and mechanical ventilation are risky procedures. As such, doctors typically use ventilators on patients in the intensive-care unit or in the operating room. These controlled environments tend to minimize the potential of lung and other serious injuries. Unfortunately, though, patients may develop ventilator-associated pneumonia.

What is ventilator-associated pneumonia? 

Hospitals can be germy places. If germs work their way into a person’s lungs, he or she may contract ventilator-associated pneumonia. In simple terms, ventilator-associated pneumonia is a lung infection. As its name suggests, the condition develops when a person is using mechanical ventilation.

Is ventilator-associated pneumonia dangerous? 

All types of pneumonia have the potential to be deadly. When it comes to ventilator-associated pneumonia, though, the risks may be even more extreme. That is, because patients are typically already in a vulnerable state when doctors intubate them, they may have a greater chance of developing life-threatening complications. Fortunately, doctors are often able to treat ventilator-associated pneumonia with antibiotics. This course of treatment does not work for every patient, nevertheless.

How do doctors prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia? 

Doctors have a duty to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia. To do so, they must take the following steps:

  • Elevate the head of the patient’s bed
  • Regularly clean the patient’s mouth
  • Thoroughly disinfect ventilator equipment
  • Remove the ventilator as soon as possible

A ventilator may eventually save a patient’s life. Still, if a doctor or another health care professional does not act diligently, developing ventilator-associated pneumonia may be the result. Even if patients receive effective treatment for the condition, they may experience a variety of life-altering consequences.