Monday, April 11, 2011

Trachs and Vents 101

I figured I'd do a little mini-series on some of the machines we use for Abby.  I don't feel like I need to say that this shouldn't take the place of real medical advice, but I'm going to just in case.  *ahem*

Don't worry--this isn't meant to bore you or douse you with  medical jargon.  I just wanted to give you a glimpse into our everyday adventures with Abby!

So, first off, I figured I'd share about the ventilator.


This little LTV 950 is truly a lifesaver!  Because Abby typically breathes "over the vent" (on her own) instead of "riding the vent" (relying on it to breathe for her), it's main purpose is not for regular breathing, per se.  The hard part for Abby is taking deep breaths.  So by having a special control called the PEEP set to 5, the vent pushes some air into her lungs so that she keeps it in there even when she exhales.  Think of it as putting a little prep air in the balloon before you fully inflate it.   (FYI:  our lungs naturally keep about the same amount of air in it at all times!) 

Abby only gets 14 breaths per minute from the vent, while she breathes around 70 bpm, and I have never seen her go that low.  She has always done really well with breathing on her own, even when she's sleeping.

The vent also has a bunch of alarms that all sound the same, but are for different things.  By far, the most frequent alarm for Abby is "high pressure."  This means that something is blocking the flow of air from the vent to Abby.  It could be a cough, sneeze, hiccup, crying, or a bunch of junk in her trach that needs to be suctioned out.  It's up to us to figure out the cause, but nine times out of ten, it's not a big deal.  We learned quickly not to freak out at the sound of an alarm...but it is rather concerning to others and we have been known to get some looks when we ignore an alarm at the doctor's office! (for the record, I always look!)

There are also alarms for:
a high respiratory rate if Abby starts working too hard
the PEEP (to keep the air in her lungs) being too high or too low--we need it to be at 5
the vent being disconnected from the trach
an air leak somewhere in the tubes
apnea in case Abby stops breathing

We have two vents:  one is stationary and is on a pole next to Abby's bed, and one is portable in a backpack.  Both have several filters attached to them and each has a circuit (the tubes) that connects the vent to Abby.  The only real difference between the stationary and the portable is that the stationary has a humidifier that sends warm, moist air into Abby.  This helps keep her secretions from getting too thick. The portable wouldn't be so portable with that, so it creates moisture in a different way using a little piece that connects to the trach.  Other than that, they're exactly the same.

So, that's the vent in a nutshell!  I hope you learned something...and that I didn't confuse you even more!

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