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Learning About Mechanical Ventilation

What is mechanical ventilation?

Mechanical ventilation means that a machine is used to help you breathe. This treatment can help people with serious breathing problems. It may be used in people who have asthma, cystic fibrosis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Most of the time it's used only until you can breathe better on your own. But sometimes it's used for a longer time at home or in a care centre. This is called chronic or long-term mechanical ventilation.

What are the types of ventilation?


A mask that is the right size for you is placed on your face. It may cover just your nose. Or it may cover your nose and mouth. A machine then helps you breathe. This helps decrease the work of breathing and gives you more oxygen.

This treatment may be used if it's hard for you to breathe but you can still breathe on your own.


A breathing tube is placed in your mouth. The tube goes into your windpipe. A machine then helps you breathe. In severe cases, the machine may breathe for you while your lung function improves. You'll get medicines to help keep you as comfortable as possible. The breathing tube is removed when you feel better and can breathe on your own.

You may get this type of ventilation if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing or you can't breathe on your own.
  • You are confused or can't think clearly.
  • You have other health problems that make it more likely that non-invasive ventilation won't work.
  • You had non-invasive ventilation, but it didn't help your breathing.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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