Intensive Care Ventilators: Lifesaving Breath Support for the Critically Ill

March 1, 2009 | Evaluations & Guidance


Intensive care ventilators provide temporary support for critically ill patients who require total or partial assistance to maintain adequate ventilation. These devices deliver positive-pressure breaths to the lungs to support gas exchange, to open or maintain ventilation of the alveoli (where gas exchange occurs), and to relieve the ventilatory muscles until the patient is able to safely resume adequate spontaneous ventilation. Intensive care ventilators have a greater complement of features than other types of ventilators (e.g., transport).

Intensive care ventilator technology is progressing rapidly. As vendors compete to provide the most cutting-edge features, formerly advanced capabilities, such as combination mode, responsive exhalation valves, and graphical displays, have become commonplace. In fact, every device in this Evaluation is equipped with all these features. This is good for buyers because there are a number of high-quality products to select from. However, choosing between these devices can be difficult. A particular challenge is the fact that the units boast new features that are highly touted by their suppliers but the value of which has yet to be conclusively proven.

Intensive care ventilators are primarily differentiated by new “special” features that are supposed to enhance their performance. But we don’t believe that the presence of these features should be the sole basis of a purchasing decision. You should also consider your relationship with the vendor, clinician preference, price, and ease of use.

We consider the Draeger EvitaXL to be a better choice than the other units and rate it Preferred. Its SmartCare/PS option seems to show the most promise of all the new features we evaluated.

As in our April 2006 Evaluation, we again rate the Respironics Esprit Not Recommended. It has improved since the last time we evaluated it, but several concerns remain. One of the other units would be a better selection.

Facilities that ventilate patients in an MR environment should consider purchasing the Servo-i, which is the only full-featured intensive care ventilator with options permitting use in an MR environment.

This Evaluation covers seven units. Four of them are newly tested for this issue. We describe our findings for them in this section and provide our detailed test results in the product profiles below.

Listed along with their most noteworthy...

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