What is a Portable Ventilator?

Pamela Pleasant

A portable ventilator is a machine that helps patients to breathe when they are suffering from respiratory illnesses. These small devices can either be used at home or carried to other locations. These machines can gently push air into and out of the lungs when it is needed. Pressure sensors on the portable ventilator can alert a patient and distribute air if a breath is skipped.

A portable ventilator is a machine that helps patients to breathe when they are suffering from respiratory illnesses.
A portable ventilator is a machine that helps patients to breathe when they are suffering from respiratory illnesses.

The portable ventilator is typically square and has a long section of plastic tubing that extends out from the bottom of the machine. This tubing is placed in the mouth for air to be delivered. If the device is used mainly at night, there will be a mask at the end of the plastic tubing. Masks are held in place with tight elastic bands. A portable ventilator usually runs on a battery pack, so it can easily be moved.

People with sleep apnea often need to sleep with a ventilator.
People with sleep apnea often need to sleep with a ventilator.

These ventilators can have a variety of functions. In order to provide the patient with significant air flow respiratory rate and tidal volume must be measured to ensure that there will not be over-inflation or under-inflation. Airway pressure is also measured, so that the correct amount of air is distributed throughout the lungs. The functions can differ, depending on what the portable ventilator is being used for.

Ambulances are equipped with portable ventilators for emergency situations.
Ambulances are equipped with portable ventilators for emergency situations.

A percentage of patients using a portable ventilator may only need it for a short period of time following a specific surgery or injury. It may be needed indefinitely if the patient has a chronic illness. Patients who suffer with muscular diseases may be physically unable to breath deeply enough. Illnesses or diseases that cause severe inflammation in the lungs can make it difficult to breathe. Occasionally, a patient may only need a portable ventilator during the night.

A patient may be put on a portable ventilator for the trip from the surgical suite to their hospital room.
A patient may be put on a portable ventilator for the trip from the surgical suite to their hospital room.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that can be life threatening. When this happens, a patient can stop breathing in his sleep. Long pauses between breaths can interrupt the natural air flow within the lungs and cause the patient to gasp for air. A portable ventilator can measure pressure within the lungs and deliver the much-needed push of air to the sleep apnea sufferer. If a person who has this condition does not receive the proper air circulation, sleep apnea can result in loss of oxygen to the brain.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a patient stops breathing in their sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a patient stops breathing in their sleep.
Patients who use a portable ventilator may experience a dry throat.
Patients who use a portable ventilator may experience a dry throat.

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