In a previous blog my colleague discussed ventilators and acute respiratory distress syndrome. In this blog we will discuss pneumonia associated with ventilators (VAP), which is found to be a common infection associated with the usage of ventilators. VAP is defined as pneumonia that develops in intubated patients more than 48 hours after the initiation of mechanical ventilation. VAP is one of the important causes of mortality and morbidity in ICU patients. VAP can also extend the stay of one in the hospital, causing unnecessary pain and suffering for a loved one along with increasing financial costs by extending the stay.
While patients are intubated hospitals must closely monitor the vital signs of the patient. One of the main vitals concerned with the ventilator is oxygen saturation that the patient’s bloodstream is carrying. Most of the time this number is usually displayed as a percentage on the monitor. The higher the number the better oxygenated the patient.
When a patient is intubated and, on the ventilator, they are most often than not unable to perform activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs can be described as daily tasks that one must perform independently to take care of basic hygiene. Some examples of these tasks include brushing the teeth and hair, using the restroom, taking a shower along with dressing themselves. The one that we are mostly concerned with is oral hygiene for someone on the ventilator. A recent study has suggested that oral hygiene has a significant impact on a patient in preventing VAP.
Common oral hygiene studies have shown that dental plaque and bacteria begin to colonize within the mouth in as less as ten minutes after proper brushing and gum cleaning. Accordingly, healthcare professionals must be relied on to properly provide proper oral hygiene for intubated patients using mechanical and chemical methods.
Mechanical methods include frequent cleaning of the tongue using oral antiseptics and suctioning of secretions from the lungs and mouth. Chemical methods include using solutions such as chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine is an oral antiseptic that has proven to be clinically effective in reducing VAP when used correctly. The correct usage of chlorhexidine has shown to reduce dental plaque formation and nosocomial pneumonia.
If you know someone that has been diagnosed VAP or has complications from utilizing mechanical ventilation, please call your attorneys at Grewal Law, PLLC for a free consultation.
Gurrajan is a trial attorney at Grewal Law, PLLC. He represents victims and families in personal injury and wrongful death claims. His primary focus is on medical malpractice claims, specializing in airway complications and surgical errors.