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Diseases & Topics

Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP)

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that is usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Signs of pneumonia can include coughing, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, chills or chest pain.

Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is a lung infection that develops in a person who is on a ventilator while s/he is in a healthcare facility such as a hospital or long-term care facility. Ventilators are machines that help patients breathe through a tube that is usually placed in the patient's mouth or nose.

People who are on a ventilator are at risk for VAP when the equipment becomes contaminated with bacteria or a virus, or when a healthcare worker carries a germ from one patient to another. VAP can occur if germs enter the body through the tube and get into the patient's lungs.

To prevent VAP, healthcare providers should clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after touching the patient or the ventilator; daily check of the patient's ability to breathe on his/her own to assess if continued ventilator use is necessary; keep the head of the patient's bed raised unless prevented by other medical conditions; clean the inside of the patient's mouth with an antimicrobial mouth rinse on a regular basis; and perform regular equipment cleaning and maintenance.

To help prevent VAP, patients should quit smoking. Patients who smoke get more infections. Patients, family members, and caregivers can help prevent VAP by being watchful and asking questions: ask healthcare providers to clean their hands if they do not; ask about raising the head of the bed if the bed is flat; ask when the patient will be allowed to breathe without the ventilator; and ask how often healthcare providers clean the patient's mouth.

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