How Does an Invasive Ventilator Work?

How Does an Invasive Ventilator Work?

What are Invasive Ventilators? 

Invasive ventilators are machines that help patients breathe when they are unable to do so on their own. The invasive ventilators are rightfully termed life support machines because that’s their only function. An invasive ventilator doesn’t provide any kind of healing to the patient. The ventilator merely keeps the airways open for the passage of air and oxygen. 

The main difference between the non-invasive ventilator and invasive ventilator is that the invasive ventilator uses an endotracheal tube to reach into the respiratory passageway. Non-invasive ventilators on the other hand use a facemask to push air into the lungs and keep the air passageway open.

How does an Invasive Ventilator work?

A ventilator consists of two main parts: the machine part of the ventilator and the endotracheal tube. 

The endotracheal tube enters the trachea while stretching the vocal cords and different musculature along the respiratory tract. This is uncomfortable for the patient and often the patient is on relaxants or sedatives to help them become accepting of the treatment. The endotracheal tube also acts as a passageway for drug delivery directly into the lungs. The mucosal secretions inside the respiratory tract are also cleared via this route. Finally, the doctors can also use this tube to view what’s happening inside the camera. 

The machine part of the ventilator works on the direction of the physicians. They can set the machine on tidal volume control modes or pressure control modes. There are also 3 modes of ventilation delivery called trigger, target, and cycle. All the different modes have variable working designs. The different modes of breathing are covered in this blog. 

The ultimate goal of the ventilator is to mimic the natural breathing pattern and help the patient breathe. 

Risks with an Invasive Ventilator

As with anything, there are several risks associated with ventilators. However, it is important to remember that most of the time, ventilators are keeping the patients alive. 

  1. Trauma to the Lung Tissue: The invasive ventilator is used to constantly maintain a positive pressure to ensure oxygen delivery. The concerned staff of the ICU always keeps the airway pressure on the lower side. However, there are times that the patient still ends up with lungs that were damaged due to air pressure. If the patient is healthy, they recover from the trauma of lung injury with an invasive ventilator quite easily. 
  2. Pneumothorax: A damaged or structurally compromised lung can develop a hole. When this happens, the air leaves the lungs and starts collecting in the chest. The lung on the other hand caves in on itself. This situation is healed by inserting a chest tube that relieves air pressure. Once the pressure relieves, the lung slowly returns to its previous state and starts functioning. 
  3. Infection: It is possible to get a lung infection (pneumonia) while being on invasive ventilator-assisted life support. This situation is generally handled with proper and timely administration of antibiotic medication to the patient.  
  4. Inability to Breath: Patients can sometimes stay breathing only when they are on a ventilator. Once the ICU staff tries to take them off the ventilator, they deteriorate. It is at these times that their families have to decide their life. While the doctors try their best to make sure the treatment helps them breathe and gets them on a ventilator for extra support, it is not always possible. 

Indications for using an Invasive Ventilator 

Invasive ventilators are indicated in several conditions, some of which are listed below: 

  1. High Carbon Level in Blood: An invasive ventilator sends air into the lungs along with oxygen. This helps the person breathe regularly. In breathing normally along with the ventilator, the body can exhale out the carbon that is increasing in the blood. 
  2. The inability of the Musculature to Work: At times the muscles that help us breathe are unable to function properly, which makes the person unable to breathe properly. With an endotracheal tube, the air and oxygen are directly delivered to the lungs and the person can inhale the optimal level of oxygen. This method keeps the condition from worsening, in the meantime, the body can heal. Once the patient is strong enough to breathe on their own, they are slowly taken off the ventilator. Oxygen tank and/or oxygen cocentrator are used together with the ventilator devices. 
  3. Infection in the Lungs: Pneumonia is a seriously debilitating condition. Often the infection becomes severe enough to make breathing difficult. COVID-19 had many patients living on a ventilator because their body was failing them. With assisted breathing, the body has time to focus its energy on fighting off the infection. 
  4. Patients with Lost Consciousness or Traumatic Injury with Unconsciousness: Patients who are comatose or who have had an accident that damaged their brain or spinal cord also need assisted breathing machines. These patients depend on ventilators for their existence.


Hospitals have state-of-the-art ventilators right now to support the different requirements of the patients. A ventilator works where a good oxygen concentrator cannot help, in a state where the patient is unable to keep up with the body’s demand for oxygen. With the energy backup that hospitals provide for these devices, their usage is safe for the patient whenever indicated by the doctors.