Keeping your Family Member Safe While on a Ventilator
Frequently asked questions
What are ventilator associated events (VAE)?
A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient
breathe by giving oxygen through a tube. The
tube can be placed in a patient’s mouth, nose, or
through a hole in the front of the neck. The tube
is connected to a ventilator. A VAE is a lung
condition that may occur in a person who is on a
What causes people to get VAE?
VAE is one type of hospital-acquired infection.
It is due to many reasons which may include:
The body is stressed. This can make
patients at higher risk for infections such
Medicines we are giving may change the
normal bacteria in the body.
Medicines we are giving make it harder
for your family member to clear their
lungs and airways.
A patient is on a ventilator for a long
What do we do to reduce the chance of VAE?
We keep the head of the bed raised
between 30 θ to 45 θ degrees unless other
medical conditions do not allow this.
We suction when needed. It is normal for
saliva to collect inside the mouth and
inside the breathing tube. As this fluid
collects it can grow bacteria and may
cause VAE. We remove this fluid from
the mouth and breathing tube when
We brush the patient’s teeth and clean the
inside of his or her mouth a few times
We reduce acid in the patient’s stomach
We give medications to help keep the
patient calm and comfortable, but still
stay awake as much as possible. This is
so the patient can be taken off the
ventilator as soon as possible.
We clean our hands with soap and water
or alcohol-based hand rub before and
after touching the patient or the
Why do you do oral care so often?
Teeth can hold onto bacteria that may cause the
normal bacteria to change. Oral care can
decrease this while your family member is on the
Why do you not use normal tooth paste?
We use a special mouth rinse that has been
shown to decrease the risk of ventilator
What can I do to help lower the chance of
Please clean your hands before entering your
family member’s room and when you leave the
room. Antiseptic gel dispensers are located in
each patient room and in the hallway.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any
questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical advice.
This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are different,
you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency,
please call 911. Copyright © 6/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by
the Department of Nursing. HF#7282.