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Invasive Mechanical Ventilators

It is a machine that helps you take breaths if you can’t do it on your own. Your doctor might call it a “mechanical ventilator.” People also often refer to it as a “breathing machine” or “respirator.” Technically, a respirator is a mask that medical workers wear when they care for someone with a contagious illness. A ventilator is a bedside machine with tubes that connect to your airways.

A ventilator mechanically helps pump oxygen into your body. The air flows through a tube that goes in your mouth and down your windpipe. The ventilator also may breathe out for you, or you may do it on your own.

The ventilator can be set to take a certain number of breaths for you per minute. Your doctor also may decide to program the ventilator to kick in when you need help. In this case, the machine will blow air into your lungs automatically if you haven’t taken a breath in a set amount of time.

The breathing tube may be uncomfortable. While it’s hooked up, you can’t eat or talk. Some people on ventilators may not be able to eat and drink normally. If so, you’ll need to get your nutrients through an IV, which is inserted with a needle into one of your veins.