There is a range of medical equipment you might see during your stay at The Essex Cardiothoracic Centre.
A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient to breathe. Doctors will insert a tube which leads to the lungs, through either the patient's mouth or into the windpipe (tracheostomy). The tube is connected to a machine which blows air in and out of the lungs. The machine can 'breathe' completely for a patient or it can be programmed to support the patient's own breathing.
The numbers on the front of the ventilator constantly change, which is normal. These tell staff about the size of breaths that the ventilator delivers each time it works.
If the ventilator is breathing completely for a patient, the patient is often sedated. This means that they are given medicines to bring on a deep sleep, which they wake up from when the drugs are withdrawn. This deep sleep makes it easier for the ventilator to work, and makes the patient more comfortable.
A patient can be gradually taken off the ventilator when their condition improves. This is called 'weaning'.
Tracheostomy: If a patient is likely to remain on a ventilator for more than a few days, they can sometimes be given a tracheostomy. In this case, the patient will receive a minor operation to have a breathing tube inserted into a hole made in the throat. Although this can look rather strange, it is comfortable for the patient.
The cardiac monitor looks like a television set attached to the wall above the patient's bed. It measures things such as heart rate and blood pressure. The machine picks up electrical impulses from the heart and can detect abnormalities.
The machine also monitors a number of other important body functions such as:
- Central venous pressure: A measure of heart function
- Respiratory rate and oxygen saturation: A measure of the amount of oxygen in the blood stream
It is normal for the numbers on the display to change regularly and occasionally flash or sound an alarm. This can cause concern to visitors but it does not mean that an emergency is happening. It simply tells staff that their attention is required.
Infusion pump (drip)
When patients need some form of extra fluid this is usually given to them through a drip. These allow sterile (pure and clean) fluids to be given directly into the patient's veins, either in the hands, feet, or the side of the neck.
There are different types of fluids given through drips, including:
- Blood: A patient may need this if their blood levels are below normal
- Medicines: These are often given to patients in critical care
- Re-hydration fluids: These help to get the right balance of water in a patient's body and can help maintain blood pressure.
Blood gas analysis machine
Blood gas analysis tells staff how well the lungs and heart are working. This is especially important if the patient is receiving extra oxygen, is on a ventilator or has problems with their heart function or breathing.
This simple procedure involves taking a small amount of blood (less than half a teaspoon) from the patient.
Cardiac output monitor
These monitors tell staff how well a patient's heart is working, and whether the heart is having difficulty pumping blood around the body. There are several types of monitors and staff can explain the differences and why a particular type is being used.
Some patients' kidneys do not work properly while in hospital, and require machines to take over.
The kidney removes waste products from the blood stream. They make sure that the balance between the water that we drink and water that we pass out is maintained. When the kidney does not function properly this delicate balance is lost and has to be performed by a special machine called the filter.
The filter removes blood from a vein through a tube (catheter), pumps it through a filter, to remove waste products and excess water, and then returns the 'cleaned' blood back to the patient. This can work continuously twenty four hours a day, if necessary.