What is a Portable Ventilator?

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  • Written By: Pamela Pleasant
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 March 2020
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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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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