HF 7282

Keeping Your Family Member Safe While on a Ventilator

What are ventilator associated events (VAE)?

A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient breathe by giving oxygen through a tube. The tube can be placed in a patient’s mouth, nose, or through a hole in the front of the neck. The tube is connected to a ventilator. A VAE is a lung condition that may occur in a person who is on a ventilator.

What causes people to get VAE?

VAE is one type of hospital-acquired infection. There are many reasons a patient may get a VAE.

  • The body is stressed. 

  • Medicines we are giving may change the normal bacteria in the body.

  • Medicines we are giving make it harder for your family member to clear their lungs and airways.

  • A patient is on a ventilator for a long time.

What do we do to reduce the chance of VAE?

  • We keep the head of the bed raised between 30° to 45° degrees unless other health problems do not allow this.

  • We suction when needed. It is normal for saliva to collect inside the mouth and inside the breathing tube. As this fluid collects it can grow bacteria and may cause VAE. We remove this fluid from the mouth and breathing tube when needed.

  • We brush the patient’s teeth and clean the inside of his or her mouth a few times each day.

  • We reduce acid in the patient’s stomach with medicines.

  • We give medicines to help keep the patient calm and comfortable while letting them stay awake as much as they can. This is so the patient can be taken off the ventilator sooner.

  • We clean our hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub before and after touching the patient or the ventilator.

Why do you do oral care so often?

Teeth can hold onto bacteria that may cause the normal bacteria to change. Oral care can decrease this while your family member is on the ventilator.

Why do you not use normal tooth paste?

We use a special mouth rinse that has been shown to decrease the risk of getting ventilator pneumonia.

What can I do to help lower the chance of VAE

Please clean your hands before you enter your family member’s room and when you leave the room. Alcohol gel is in each patient room and in the hallway.