Prolonged Mechanical Ventilation

Kindred Hospitals specialize in offering therapy to patients looking to improve their chances of coming off a ventilator and assistance in their recovery and transition from hospital to home.

If you are looking for a long-term acute care (LTAC) facility to help transition your loved one who might be a ventilator patient, consider Kindred Hospitals. We are leaders in ventilator care and deliver best-in-class ventilator weaning protocols.

At Kindred we understand the hardships associated with mechanical ventilator support. You or your loved one may feel frustrated from limitations such as not being able to speak or eat. Our teams of specialists offer individualized treatment to provide the care and support needed to begin the journey to recovery.

What is ventilator care?

If you or a loved one is unable to breathe on their own, they are often placed on mechanical ventilation. There are many reasons why this may occur, including – but not limited to – a brain or spinal cord injury or muscle, lung or sleep disorders. In some cases, ventilator dependence occurs as a result of recovering from a very serious medical condition.

Connection to a ventilator occurs through either a mask or through a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure to open a hole in the neck. The process of breathing through mechanical ventilation is not the same as how we normally breathe. A ventilator pushes air into a patient’s lungs. When the lungs are full, the vent stops pushing and air leaves the lungs on its own.

The medical team determines how much breathing support is needed, but typically there are three types of ventilator support:

  • Controlled – when you cannot breathe on your own
  • Supported – when you can breathe but need extra help from the ventilator in the form of pressure
  • A combination of both

Not only does the ventilator deliver air into the lungs, but it also provides something called positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) to aid the lungs in staying open so that the air sacs don’t collapse.

What are the possible complications of mechanical ventilation?

Since a number of the conditions that require breathing support are severe in nature, long-term mechanical ventilation and disease-related complications can arise. For instance, if too much air enters the lungs, a collapsed lung or pneumothorax can occur.

Another precaution you and your loved ones should be aware of is the need to keep the breathing tube clean and relatively free of bacteria. If too much bacteria gets inside the breathing tube or if you are unable to cough, this can indicate that an infection such as pneumonia (called ventilator-associated pneumonia) has occurred.

Other possible complications that can occur include:

  • Oxygen toxicity
  • Decreased cardiac output
  • Diaphragm atrophy
  • Airway injuries
  • Too much air pressure in portions of the lung

The team at Kindred Hospitals will monitor you closely to prevent complications or treat those should they occur.

Is recovery after being on a ventilator possible?

You might wonder, “How long can you be on a ventilator?” There is no one answer to that question, as individuals recover at their own rate. Kindred Hospitals are a national leader in ventilator weaning with three decades of experience in helping patients achieve breathing independence. Our tailored-weaning care plans free patients from mechanical ventilation at a rate that often exceeds national averages.

“Kindred is the leader in the recovery of patients on ventilators. This requires specialized programs, and we take pride in helping each and every patient achieve their best possible recovery in a safe manner,” says Dr. Sean Muldoon, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Kindred Healthcare’s Hospital Division.

To help patients improve their chances of getting off a ventilator and achieve their goals, our interdisciplinary team, including pulmonologists and respiratory therapists, creates an individualized ventilator weaning protocol. Kindred also offers specialized training for its staff to ensure they are up to date on the ventilator weaning techniques.

Kindred knows how important family and friends are to the healing process. Our hospital staff holds family meetings with our interdisciplinary team on a regular basis to set goals and discuss progress. Family education sessions are designed to train loved ones on home care and other recovery-related topics.

“Creating a customized care plan to treat unique medical conditions of each patient on mechanical ventilation not only requires specialized staff training, but an individualized approach that involves the patient and their family and to achieve the best possible outcome,” adds Dr. Muldoon.

When creating a ventilator weaning protocol, the team meets regularly to address:

  • Rehabilitation goals and progress
  • Early mobility program (getting vented patients up and moving)
  • Timeline for weaning off the ventilator
  • Nutrition and medication management
  • Family education and preparation

Kindred’s approach also involves clergy and support groups to meet spiritual and psychological needs as well as comprehensive planning services for post-hospital life. Kindred Hospital staff works to make the patient’s and family’s experience with us as successful as possible while preparing you or your loved one for life after discharge.


Success Spotlight: Roosevelt's Story

Before his health took a turn for the worse, Roosevelt lived at home with his wife and enjoyed family time and an independent lifestyle. Hospitalized since late summer of 2019, Roosevelt has been on a long journey to recovery and has battled numerous illnesses and life-threatening organ failure. Aggressive pneumonia led to him needing to be placed on a ventilator, while acute kidney and liver injuries presented additional challenges and treatments to prevent blot clots and cardiac failure.

After a long stay at the general hospital, Roosevelt was finally able to be transferred to Kindred Hospital, where he would be able to receive aggressive respiratory therapy and rehabilitation. With the goal of a return to his home and family firmly in sight, his respiratory therapists helped increase his lung strength until Roosevelt no longer needed the support of the ventilator and he was successfully weaned. His occupational and physical therapists helped Roosevelt regain his strength and fine motor skills and he was able to stand up and walk and take back control over the tasks of daily living.

One of the last milestones before his discharge from Kindred to his home and family was when Roosevelt was able to have the breathing tube completely removed. Now eating and drinking a simple diet and completely independent, he was eager to complete his recovery in the comfort of his own home. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my grandkids,” Roosevelt shared with his team of caregivers before he left.