What is a Pediatric Ventilator?

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  • Written By: Terri Forehand
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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A pediatric ventilator is a machine that supports the breathing of an infant or child in respiratory distress. It works much like a regular, adult ventilator, except that its parts are smaller to better accommodate a child's smaller body. A pediatric ventilator may be used in connection with anesthesia for a surgical procedure, or in the event that a child's illness or accident leads to breathing problems.

A pediatric ventilator uses a plastic airway tube called an endotracheal tube to provide air to a child's lungs. A trained professional will thread the tube through the patient's mouth to the trachea to ensure proper placement. Long-term pediatric ventilation may require the use of a tracheotomy tube; it is a shorter version of the endotracheal tube and is threaded through a small slit cut in the patient's throat before being placed directly into the patient's trachea. Mechanical ventilation is provided by plastic tubing running from the ventilator machine to the tube in the child's airway. Tape or tube holders can be used to secure the tube in the child’s trachea to keep the tube from slipping out.


Mechanical ventilation for infants and children will provide just the right amount of oxygen with each breath. A pediatric ventilator can be set to give breaths independent from the child, in sync with the child’s breathing, or only when the child does not take a breath alone. Such ventilators also have alarm limits so the healthcare team can be aware if the ventilator's breaths are not being delivered appropriately.

The machine can be a small portable pediatric ventilator used for young patients who need a home ventilator. These mini-machines have all the capabilities of the larger hospital versions, except they are easy to move. They also run on a battery for up to 8 hours, so the ventilator can support the breathing of an infant or child when away from another power source, such as an electrical outlet.

A ventilator machine also can be a huge and overwhelming piece of equipment in a pediatric intensive care unit or hospital room. The ventilator may be frightening at first. A parent is likely to become more comfortable with the alarms and other sounds of the machine as it works to support the rhythmic breathing of the child and the parent learns more about it.

Pediatric ventilators use two common modes to measure each breath: pressure control and volume control. The doctor will order what mode and amount of pressure or volume the infant or child needs according to the condition of the lungs and the underlying illness the child is experiencing. The ventilator has built-in alarms and limits to prevent injury to the child’s lungs and to help promote healing.


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