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What Is a Resuscitation Bag?

A self-inflating resuscitation bag does not need to be attached to an oxygen source.
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  • Written By: M. DePietro
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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A resuscitation bag is a hand-held medical device used to help assist a person in breathing during a medical emergency. The bag is used to provide artificial respiration to patients who stop breathing or are barely breathing. As part of resuscitation equipment, emergency workers and medical personal use a resuscitation bag in both the pre-hospital and hospital settings.

The resuscitation bag consists of a few parts. The main part of the resuscitation bag is an air chamber that is squeezed to force air into the patient’s lungs. A mask, which is placed over a person’s nose and mouth, is attached to the end of the air chamber. Most resuscitation bags also have an oxygen inlet and reservoir tubing attached to an oxygen cylinder or hospital flow meter.

There are two types of resuscitation bags. One type is a free-flowing bag and the other is a self-inflating bag. A self-inflating bag does not need to be attached to a gas source, such as oxygen. Once it is compressed, it springs back and re-inflates. A free-flowing bag needs to be attached to a gas source to inflate.

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Resuscitation bags come in a few sizes. Bags are available for premature babies, infants, children, and adults. Various size bags are needed for a few reasons. Masks need to be different sizes to fit the size of the patient. The air chamber also varies in size. This allows a different volume of air to be delivered to the patient, depending on his size. For instance, adult bags can deliver more air when squeezed than a pediatric bag.

Regardless of type, resuscitation bags are all used similarly. The mask is placed over a patient's nose and mouth firmly. The air chamber is squeezed and then released. Each time the bag is squeezed, a breath is delivered to the patient. If the mask is removed, the bag can directly be attached to the end of a breathing tube in a patient’s airway.

Side effects can occur when a resuscitation bag is used on a person to restore breathing. Sometimes, air is not only forced into the lungs, but also into the stomach. This can lead to stomach distention and possible nausea and vomiting. If too much air is forced into the lungs, the pressure becomes to great and trauma to the lungs can occur.

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