Thursday, October 9, 2008


Very premature babies usually need some kind of breathing assistance. It's important to note that there is a vast difference between between an infant being "on oxygen" and "on a ventilator". While we all want to see our children ultimately tube-free and wireless, receiving supplemental oxygen through a nasal cannula is not nearly as invasive, damaging, or frightening as being on a ventilator.

There are three different types of ventilators (and infinite combinations of pressures and settings) that are used to help these tiny babies breathe:

  1. Classic respirators (or "classic vents")- These machines provide breathing assistance by supplying and regulating a flow of pressurized oxygen that goes through a tube down into the windpipe. Classic vents usually provide 30-60 breaths per minute.
  2. High-frequency ventilators (or "oscillators")- High frequency ventilation manages a baby's breathing at 500 to 2,000 breaths per minute. This drastically increased rate of breathing reduces pressure on the lungs. Changing the ventilating pattern through the use of the oscillator may help minimize some of the damage to the infant's lungs.
  3. Jet ventilation (or "the Jet")- Jet ventilation (JV) is a special type of mechanical ventilation that is characterized by the blowing of an O2/gas mixture at high velocity into the airway. Use of the Jet in small babies is often considered a "last ditch effort" because of the near guarantee of lung damage.
Our daughter spent time on both the classic vent and the oscillator. She was never put on the Jet, but there was some discussion about it. If your baby is on a ventilator, make sure you ask plenty of questions. The more you know about the settings and pressures, the more informed you'll be about how your child is doing. Nurses are fantastic resources as are respiratory therapists.

For those of you who have had a child on a vent:
What type of vent was your baby on?
How long was your child on the vent?
What were your biggest concerns about the ventilator?


Ryann said...

Addyson was on both the classic vent and the oscillator. Didn't have to go to the Jet, but there was discussion about it!

I'm unsure of the length of time she was on each... we were back and forth on these for a couple months then on to C-pap and eventually nasal cannula.

The hardest part for us... while Addy was on the oscillator, we couldn't hold her. I know it was at least 5 weeks from the first time I held her (around 10 days old) to the second time we held her. It was father's day weekend before Nick held her! The oscillator makes their little body vibrate - it's a strange thing to watch.

Anonymous said...

My 28 weeker Liam was on the vent total for one month and then on CPAP/cannula for the following month and a half. Oscillator for about two weeks when he was seriously ill with pneumonia and had PDA surgery. And then conventional vent for two weeks total.

Ditto the comment about not being able to hold your baby when they are on the oscillator. Plus the noise is so loud they can't even hear you.

Our primary concern was of course lung damage/CLD. He did suffer effects the first 2-3 winters but seems to be getting stronger and stronger each winter. And we got through RSV at 2.5 years old without needing to be admitted!

- Tiffany, Liam's mom

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