A mechanical ventilator is a life-saving technology, but the decision to wean a patient off a ventilator requires a skillful combination of proven protocols, reliable technology, and teamwork between respiratory therapists and physicians.
For patients unable to breathe on their own, mechanical ventilation provides life-sustaining oxygen. However potential risks and adverse effects require careful oversight. To reach the goal of restoring full breathing function to the patient, hospitals are developing more effective weaning protocols. In addition, ventilator technology is constantly improving.
Ventilator: The Weaning Process
The ventilator brings oxygen into the lungs and helps get rid of carbon dioxide from the patient’s body. Sometimes a patient may become dependent on a ventilator because of his or her medical problems. This may make it difficult to get the patient off the machine. When the patient’s medical problems have improved “weaning” will begin. Weaning is the process of getting the patient off the ventilator.
This is also known as a “weaning trial” or “CPAP trial.” If these trials go well, the patient may be removed from the machine. At this point, the breathing tube may be removed from his or her throat (extubation). Trach patients will probably need additional time before the trach tube can be removed.
The Team Effort
The care team is a group of professional and support staff who act as a team to provide personal care.
- Doctors, including lung or pulmonary specialists
- Registered nurse
- Respiratory therapist (breathing therapist)
The support staff members are:
- Social worker
- Nursing assistant
- Physical therapist
- Occupational therapist