What is a ventilator and what does it do?

Simply put, a ventilator takes over the body’s breathing process when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

This gives the patient time to fight off the infection and recover.

Various types of medical ventilation can be used.

Graphic showing two common types of medical ventilationPresentational white space

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 80% of people with Covid-19 – the disease caused by coronavirus – recover without needing hospital treatment.

But one person in six becomes seriously ill and can develop breathing difficulties.

In these severe cases, the virus causes damage to the lungs. The body’s immune system detects this and expands blood vessels so more immune cells enter.

But this can cause fluid to enter the lungs, making it harder to breathe, and causing the body’s oxygen levels to drop.

To alleviate this, a machine ventilator is used to push air, with increased levels of oxygen, into the lungs.

The ventilator also has a humidifier, which adds heat and moisture to the medical air so it matches the patient’s body temperature.

Patients are given medication to relax the respiratory muscles so their breathing can be fully regulated by the machine.