Keeping your Family Member Safe While on a Ventilator
What is ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP)?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. 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 VAP is a lung infection or pneumonia that occurs in a person who is on a ventilator.
What causes people to get VAP?
VAP is one type of hospital-acquired infection. It is due to many reasons which may include:
- The body is stressed. This can make patients at higher risk for infections such as VAP.
- 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 VAP?
- We keep the head of the bed raised between 30° to 45° degrees unless other medical conditions 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 VAP. 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 wake the patient each day to see how well he or she can breathe without help from the ventilator. This is so the patient can be taken off the ventilator as soon as possible.
- 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 ventilator associated pneumonia.
What can I do to help lower the chance of VAP?
Please clean your hands before entering your family member’s room and when you leave the room. Antiseptic gel dispensers are located in each patient room and in the hallway.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 11/23/2011
Copyright © 11/21/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7282
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