Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP)

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1 Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP) UHN Information for patients and families Read this booklet to learn: what VAP is what we do to reduce the risk of VAP what you can do to help Please visit the UHN Patient Education website for more health information: University Health Network. All rights reserved. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for non-commercial personal use only. Author: Brenda Ridley Created: 11/2010 Form: D-5698 (02/2014)

2 What is ventilator-associated pneumonia? Sometimes when patients are admitted to the hospital, they can get infections. These are called hospital acquired infections. Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is one type of hospital acquired infection. Pneumonia is a common lung infection for many people. Pneumonia can cause coughing, fever, chest pain and breathing problems. VAP can sometimes happen in people who are being cared for in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU). VAP may happen in ICU patients who: need a breathing tube and help from a breathing machine (ventilator) for more than 48 hours need the breathing machine for only a few hours during the day or for a longer time (for example, 24 hours a day) 2

3 Why does VAP happen in patients who are in the ICU? VAP can happen in patients in ICUs for many reasons. Two of these reasons are: Patients who need help from a breathing machine have changes in their reflexes (natural reactions) to cough, yawn and breathe deeply. This can cause fluids to gather in their lungs. Bacteria (germs) can grow in this fluid and make it easier for a lung infection to happen. The normal immune system (your body s way of keeping you healthy) has changed for patients who are very sick and in the ICU. This can cause their risk of getting VAP to increase. What are the University Health Network ICU teams doing to reduce the risk of VAP? The ICU teams at the University Health Network (UHN) work to lower the risk of VAP for every patient in their care. Some of the ways they do this are by: 1. Raising the head of the bed The ICU team will raise the head of the bed 30 to 45 degrees for all patients on a breathing machine. This will lower the risk of fluids travelling to your loved one s lungs and reduce the risk of VAP. 2. Cleaning patients mouths You will see members of the health care team brushing your loved one s teeth or cleaning inside of their mouth. They use an antiseptic (cleaner) to help decrease the growth of bacteria and lower the risk of VAP. 3

4 3. Removing extra fluid It is normal for saliva to collect inside the mouth, back of the throat and breathing tube. As this fluid collects and sits, it can grow bacteria that may cause VAP. A member of the health care team may remove this fluid from your loved one using a special catheter (tube). It may make your loved one cough when this fluid is removed. 4. Decreasing stomach acid A patient on a breathing machine can t eat or drink in the usual way. To help, a small flexible tube is placed in through their nose and into their stomach. This tube is used to give liquid food and medicine until your loved one can eat normally again. Your loved one will get medicine to help lower the amount of acid in their stomach. Stomach acid can reflux (go back up) into your loved one s lungs, which can put them at risk of getting VAP. 5. Checking to see if the breathing machine is still needed Your loved one will receive medicines to make it easier for them to rest and be as comfortable as possible while on a breathing machine. It will be up to the health care team to decide when your loved one is ready to stop using the breathing machine. To help them decide, the team may stop the medicines. This will help them see how well your loved one can wake up and breathe without the breathing machine. 4

5 What can I do to help lower the chance of VAP? Please wash your hands. The best way to help your loved one is to clean your hands: before entering their hospital room after touching anything in the room when you leave their room You can use the hand sanitizers (cleaners) that are placed in many areas in the hospital. The members of the health care team will also clean their hands before and after caring for your loved one. Who can I talk to if I have any questions? If you have any questions about VAP, please feel free to talk to a member of the health care team. 5

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