The ventilator settings are prescribed by the physician, and one or more setting types may be used for the patient. For example a patient may be on one set rate during the day, but may require more ventilation during the night. Let’s take a look at some of the common settings and abbreviations you might see on a home ventilator, as well as what alarms may arise and how to fix them
One common setting is what is known as SIMV or Synchronized Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation. SIMV mode provides support for each breath the patient initiates themselves, as well as supporting breaths initiated by the ventilator. Another common setting is known as CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. This setting basically provides positive pressure through the ventilator so the patient’s airway remains open while breathing on their own. The last commonly seen settings on a home ventilator are VC/PC, which stands for either Volume Control or Pressure Control. These settings simply initiate breaths for the patient, but stop providing the breath when a volume or pressure is achieved.
Ventilators have loud alarms that let the patient or patient caregiver know that something is wrong, either with the patient or the ventilator connection. A “high pressure” alarm may mean that there is excess water in the tubing or there is an occlusion such as a mucous plug inside the patient’s tracheostomy. Disconnecting the tubing and letting the water drain out will take care of the excess water; if the alarm persists, the patient may need to have their tracheostomy cannula changed. Always remember to look at the patient first; this will tell you a lot about the source of the problem. A “low pressure” alarm may indicate that the tubing has become disconnected either to the patient or the machine; check all connections before clearing the alarm.
For more information on the ventilator you or your family are using, always remember to consult your respiratory therapist or doctor. No information provided in this article should override the information given to you by your doctor. While the medical field provides me with a seemingly never ending number of topics to write about, I am always open to suggestions for future topics. If you have a certain topic you would like to know more about, or any diagnosis you would like the public to be made more aware of, please feel free to contact me.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.