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Our Health Information Database is provided by A.D.A.M. the leading provider of electronic and printed information for professionals and consumers in healthcare and industry. It provides authoritative, reliable content written and reviewed by an editorial board who represent a variety of specialty areas. This board reviews and evaluates all healthcare information to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and can be used with complete confidence. And now you have access to the same authoritative, trusted clinical information relied upon by health professionals around the world.
Mechanical ventilator - infants

Alternative Names

Ventilator - infants; Respirator - infants


A mechanical ventilator is a machine that assists breathing. This article discusses the use of mechanical ventilators in infants.


A ventilator is used to provide breathing support for ill or immature babies. Sick or premature babies often have breathing problems, and cannot breathe adequately on their own. They need assistance from a ventilator to provide “good” air (oxygen) to the lungs and to remove “bad” air (carbon dioxide).


A ventilator is a bedside machine that is attached to the breathing tube that is placed into the windpipe of sick babies. Caregivers can adjust the ventilator as needed, depending on the baby's physical findings, blood gas measurements, and x-rays.


Most babies who need ventilator assistance have some degree of lung problems, including fragile lungs, which are at risk for injury. Sometimes the delivery of oxygen under pressure can result in damage to the fragile air sacs. This can lead to air leaks, which can make it difficult for the ventilator to help the baby breathe.

  • The most common type of air leak occurs when air gets into the space between the lung and inner chest wall. This is called a pneumothorax. This air can be removed with a tube placed into the space until the pneumothorax heals.
  • A less common kind of air leak occurs when many tiny pockets of air are found in the lung tissue around the air sacs. This is called a pulmonary interstitial emphysema. This air cannot be removed but usually slowly goes away on its own.

Long-term damage may also occur, resulting in a form of chronic lung disease that is called bronchopulmonary dysplasia. This is why the caregivers closely monitor and attempt to “wean” or decrease the settings on the ventilator whenever possible. It is the baby's needs, however, that determine the level of support needed in most circumstances.


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      Review Date: 12/18/2009

      Review By: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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