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Clogged Breathing Tubes Can Kill

Ventilator machine in hospital operating room

The National Institute of Health tells us that, “A tracheostomy (TRA-ke-OS-to-me) is a surgically made hole that goes through the front of your neck and into your trachea (TRA-ke-ah), or windpipe. The hole is made to help you breathe.

A tracheostomy usually is temporary, although you can have one long term or even permanently. How long you have a tracheostomy depends on the condition that required you to get it and your overall health.

Tracheostomies are generally performed when someone needs to be on a ventilator for a significant period of time. Ventilators support breathing, and are connected to a trach tube that supplies oxygen-rich air directly to the lungs. During ventilation, it is also necessary to suction out naturally occurring mucus to keep the airways clear.

Ventilators are lifesaving machines. As with all medical devices, they carry an inherent degree of risk. In this case, anyone on a ventilator is completely dependent on a health care provider to keep them alive. Often the patient is unconscious and unable to alert anyone if a problem occurs.

The dangers of unclean equipment

Ventilators and trach tubes are made from medical grade plastic, but the warm, moist air from exhalation and the natural bacteria present in the throat can lead to bacterial colony growth in the equipment. If the tubes are not cleaned regularly, mucus can build up inside of them, ultimately cutting off the oxygen flow that ventilators are designed to provide. When this happens, hypoxia sets in quickly. If help takes too long, death will follow shortly thereafter.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, permanent brain damage can occur after only four minutes without oxygen, and death can occur in as little as four minutes after that.

If your loved one is on a ventilator, it is important to be vigilant and ask questions about the standard of care they are receiving. Unconscious or infirm patients benefit from having an advocate. When accidents happen, we are here to be your advocate. Please contact Crandall & Pera Law to learn more about your options if your loved one was harmed because of a negligent healthcare provider in an Ohio nursing home.

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