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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 3 (1996), Issue 6, Pages 397-402
Mechanical Ventilation Symposium

Ventilator Circuits, Humidification and Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia

Dean Hess

Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Copyright © 1996 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Technical issues in the care of mechanically ventilated patients include those related to the ventilator circuit, humidification and ventilator-associated pneumonia. Principal issues related to ventilator circuits include leaks and compression volume. Circuit compression volume affects delivered tidal volume as well as measurements of auto-positive end-expiratory pressure and mixed expired PCO2. Resistance through the ventilator circuit contributes to patient-ventilator dyssynchrony during assisted modes of mechanical ventilation. Adequate humidification of inspired gas is necessary to prevent heat and moisture loss. Common methods of humidification of inspired gas during mechanical ventilation include use of active heated humidifiers and passive artificial noses. Artificial noses are less effective than active humidifiers and are best suited to short term use. With active humidifiers, the circuit can be heated to avoid condensate formation. However, care must be exercised when heated circuits are used to avoid delivery of a low relative humidity and subsequent drying of secretions in the artificial airway. Although pneumonia is a complication of mechanical ventilation, these pneumonias are usually the result of aspiration of pharyngeal secretions and are seldom related to the ventilator circuit. Ventilator circuits do not need to be changed more frequently than weekly for infection control purposes, and the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia may be greater with more frequent circuit changes.