Mechanical Ventilation: Conventional & Non-Conventional

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

There are several different types of mechanical ventilation, which include the use of both conventional and non-conventional ventilators. Check out this lesson to learn about these different types of mechanical ventilators!

So Many to Choose From!

Imagine you are a nurse working in the ICU. One of your patients is starting to suffer from respiratory failure. A doctor asks your opinion on which type of mechanical ventilator that should be used on this patient.

Do you know the different types of mechanical ventilators? Would you know what to tell the doctor? If not, have no fear because this lesson will provide information about six of the most commonly used mechanical ventilators.

Mechanical Ventilators

Mechanical ventilation refers to a patient being hooked up to a machine that helps the person breathe. Mechanical ventilators can be divided into two different categories: conventional and non-conventional. The following sections will describe the specific types of both conventional and non-conventional mechanical ventilators.

mechanical ventilation

Conventional Ventilators

There are three primary types of conventional mechanical ventilators, which include volume-cycled ventilator, pressure-cycled ventilator, and time-cycled ventilator. The main difference between these three conventional mechanical ventilators is how it is determined when they change from the inspiratory phase (supplying air to the patient's lungs) to the expiratory phase (allowing the patient's lungs to exhale). The following chart describes these three conventional ventilators.

Type of Conventional Mechanical Ventilator Description
Volume-cycled ventilator A volume-cycled ventilator changes from the inspiratory phase to the expiratory phase when the volume of air in the lungs reaches a pre-set amount. The amount of air the lungs take in during an inhalation is called tidal volume. Therefore, a volume-cycled ventilator can be set to change from inspiration to expiration when the lungs hit a certain tidal volume, such as 0.5 liters. This is the most frequently used type of conventional ventilator.
Pressure-cycled ventilator A pressure-cycled ventilator changes from inspiration to expiration when the lungs reach a certain pre-set pressure. The benefit of this type of ventilator is that it is less likely to cause damage to the lungs due to high amounts of pressure. The downside is that the amount of air supplied to the lungs can vary from breath to breath due to changes in the flexibility in the lung tissue and increased resistance in the airways.
Time-cycled ventilator A time-cycled ventilator changes from inspiration to expiration at a specific pre-set time. For example, this type of ventilator can be set to give oxygen to lungs (inspiratory phase) for three seconds. After the three seconds, it will switch to expiration. This is the least frequently used conventional ventilator.

Non-Conventional Ventilation

Conventional methods of ventilation have been used for many years, but they have some limitations and sometimes do not meet the specific respiratory needs of patients. Therefore, newer, non-conventional ventilation methods have been developed to provide improved ventilation to patients in hopes to produce better overall outcomes. The three main types of non-conventional ventilation include:

  • Pressure-regulated volume-control (PRVC): This type of mechanical ventilation is controlled by both pressure and volume. When a patient is hooked up to this type of ventilator, the doctor will pre-set the tidal volume, while the amount of pressure can change with each breath depending on the compliance of the lungs and the resistance in the airways.
  • Volume-support ventilation (VSV ): The breathing rate or frequency of this type of mechanical ventilation is controlled by the patient's lungs, which means VSV can only be used with patients who can inhale and exhale on their own. However, the pressure of each breath in this type of ventilation can change depending on the compliance of the lungs and the resistance of the airways.
  • Bi-level/biphasic ventilation: This type of mechanical ventilation has two different pressure settings: high pressure and low pressure. The high pressure setting is used for the majority of the time, with the low pressure setting only used for about one second to allow for the person to exhale.

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