Q: What is a ventilator for?

This is an excerpt from our Vet Talk Live on March 29, when someone asked: what are the blue things on the wall behind you?

The blue bags are called ambu bags. We use them to breathe for patients that are not getting enough oxygen and cannot breathe sufficiently for themselves. Ambu bags are a type of hand-operated mechanical ventilator, and are temporary until we can get the patient to a larger, more sophisticated veterinary hospital where they have expensive ventilator machines and critical care specialists. Ventilator patients are in critical condition. It takes a tremendous amount of resources and a dedicated team to care for a ventilator patient.

There are many reasons a patient could need mechanical ventilation, but the condition has to be so severe that the patient is at risk of dying due to inadequate respiration. Causes can include severe problems with the lungs (pneumonia, pulmonary edema, COPD), neurologic problems (intoxications, spinal cord injury, muscle paralysis), problems with the heart and cardiovascular system, post-arrest (CPR) and many more. Patients that need mechanical ventilation are usually in a life-or-death situation already. Many patients will not make it off the ventilator.

We also tell a heroic story of a vet who saves a dog at the animal shelter using hand-operated mechanical ventilation. Please remember to spay/ neuter your pet, and to donate to your local animal shelter- they really need your help!

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