Artificial respiration means applying some method to supply a person with air, or essentially breathing for him. There are natural methods for doing this, such as blowing air into a person’s mouth when performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and there are also hand operated or mechanical ways to provide these needed breaths if a person is not breathing on his own or is not breathing adequately.
When the body does not get enough oxygen because it is not breathing on its own or not breathing enough, the brain cells begin to deteriorate rapidly. They rely on a constant supply of oxygen in order to stay alive. This is why artificial respiration is so vital under many circumstances. In order to hopefully preserve brain cells and prevent tissue death, a continued supply of oxygen is required.
Mechanical respiration can be used to maintain life in people who are essentially brain dead. This method may be used when a person has technically died but is a designated organ donor. Keeping organs fully functioning is necessary to provide the best chance that they will be successfully transplanted. In these cases, the person truly is not alive and meets many other standards that define death, but it can be challenging for that person’s survivors to consider them as "gone" because a machine is providing them with breath.
The most basic level of artificial respiration is mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In the field, and when EMT or medical workers are moving patients, they may also use a hand squeeze pump to supply needed air. More extensive methods of providing air include placing tubes in the nose or the mouth, called intubation.
Intubation can provides air by machine, and it can use air with a higher oxygen content as needed or simply use room air. This also helps prevent things like vomiting into the lungs during or after surgery. Intubation is standard in many surgeries even if people don’t need breathing support; the tube allows quick access in case breathing slows down so much that support is required. People can continue to breathe on their own through the tube.
The most invasive way in which artificial respiration is provided is through a hole in the trachea. Sometimes, a medical condition may make it impossible to place a tube from the mouth into the trachea, and medical workers may need more direct access to it. Cutting a small hole in the base of throat provides this access and may be needed occasionally.
People who have respiration assistance don’t necessarily lack the ability to breathe. They may not be able to breathe enough, and many forms of anesthesia repress or suppress breathing so much that people won’t take as many breaths as they need while drugged. Premature infants born with insufficient lung function and capacity may require extra support from mechanized respiration too, so they get the vital oxygen and gas exchange they require to promote growth and brain health. Sometimes, mechanical respiration may be a complicated issue in these smallest of patients and can cause damage and side effects, though the benefits often outweigh risks.
Many people who are intubated during surgery are extubated before they even wake up, but some people may continue to need respiration support for a while. Basically, machines that provide respiration can be programmed to take the additional breaths a patient is failing to take. Once the patient begins to take these breaths on their own, he is weaned off artificial means of respiration.