Ventilators are regularly used in hospitals when patients need assistance breathing. With proper use, these machines are perfectly safe, but use beyond what is necessary, can lead to infections. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a hospital-acquired infection of the lungs that a patient contracts because of either prolonged use of a ventilator or use of a contaminated ventilator. Approximately 10-20 percent of patients in the Intensive Care Unit contract VAP as this is where the highest instance of ventilator use occurs.
How VAP Happens
VAP can be caused by improper bed positioning while a patient is on the ventilator. Optimal positioning is the patient's head raised between 30 and 45 degrees from the body. This low incline allows for proper drainage of the ventilator tubes, so condensation does not accumulate.
All medical personnel who come in contact with the patient should wash their hands and use gloves when touching the ventilator components. The inside of the patient's mouth should regularly be cleaned to prevent a buildup of bacteria. Hospital staff who work on a ventilator patient should wear a mask at all times to prevent infection.
Another common cause of VAP is an improperly cleaned ventilator. Some components such as the ventilator mask may be re-used on multiple patients before discarded. Contamination from prior patients can carry over to a newly ventilator-assisted patient.
Overuse of ventilators can raise the risk of VAP as well. Patients should be removed from a ventilator as soon as they can breathe on their own. The longer a patient is on a ventilator, the higher the risk of developing pneumonia.
Next Steps: Treat VAP and Investigate an Atlanta Nurse Med Mal Claim
You can treat VAP with antibiotics just like standard pneumonia, but if the patient's immune is already compromised then VAP pneumonia treatment may be too hard on his/her body. Over-compromising the immune system can result in prolonged sickness and bills for an ailing patient and his/her family.
If your loved one developed pneumonia while on a ventilator in the care of a hospital, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. is here to help. Contact our office to schedule an appointment for a free consultation regarding your legal options. Call 404-474-0804.