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Mechanical ventilation uses a breathing machine called a ventilator to help move air into and out of the lungs. In order to connect a child’s lungs to a ventilator, a doctor may insert a narrow plastic tube through the mouth and into the windpipe through a process called intubation.
Intubation and mechanical ventilation may be used for babies or children who are experiencing severe respiratory problems and need emergency treatment. Intubation and mechanical ventilation may also be used to help a child breathe while sedated during surgery.
Older children may need intubation and mechanical ventilation when being treated for a severe asthma attack, after a serious injury or near drowning or during a severe viral illness. In many cases, older children can receive oxygen through a face mask or nasal tube as long as the airway is clear. If the child is unconscious, or if he or she is conscious but has injuries that make it impossible to breathe deeply and get enough oxygen, intubation may be necessary.
You can expect the following if your child requires intubation and mechanical ventilation at Riley at IU Health:
Babies and children may need to use a ventilator for a few hours, a few days or even a few months depending on their specific health needs and overall condition.