Ventilator: Types and Modes of Mechanical Ventilation

Ventilator is a device that assists a person in breathing through mechanical ventilation. This device is used when the person is unable to breath on her own. The device moves the air in and out of the lungs of the person. Ventilators are mostly used inside Intensive Care Units (ICU) and are considered life-saving intervention. Nowadays, most of the mechanical ventilation devices are computer controlled. There are two main types of ventilators:

  • Invasive ventilators
  • Non-invasive ventilators

In case of invasive mechanical ventilation, doctors insert a tube through mouth into the trachea (windpipe) of the patient. Ventilator machine delivers air into the lungs through the tube and takes the deoxygenated air out. This method is used when long-term dependence on ventilator is required. Invasive mechanical ventilation may cause airway injury, alveolar damage and other complications.

In non-invasive ventilation, air is delivered through a mask tightly fitted on mouth and nose of the patient. This method does not require intubaion. Non-invasive ventilators are used when patient requires assisted breathing while sleeping or resting.

an invasive ventilator machine

Ventilator Shortage during Covid-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 pandemic has caused acute shortage of ventilators all around the world. Developing nations are especially bearing the brunt. Caused by SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, Covid-19 is a respiratory disease. Close to 5% of Covid-19 patients require assisted breathing; and thus a ventilator is used.

The following data (as in April 2020) on numbers of ventilators available in the African countries underlines the dire shortage:

  • Close to 1.2 billion population of 41 African countries has only about 2000 ventilators available to it.
  • Somalia has population of about 15 million and not a single ventilator is available in the country.
  • Central African Republic has just three ventilators for its population of five million.
  • With population of 12 million people, South Sudan has only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds at its disposal.
  • Liberia posses only five ventilators.
  • Burkina Faso‘s 10 million population is replying on merely 11 ventilators in the country.
  • Sierra Leone has 13 ventilators and Uganda has only 55 ICU beds,
  • Nigeria has fewer than 100 ventilators for its population 200 million.
These figures are worrisome. African governments have been trying to procure more ventilators but there is a rush to get these life saving machines all around the globe. Therefore, the chances for these countries to get enough ventilators are slim.