As many as half of critically ill patients require mechanical ventilation. In this article, a program of research focused on reduction of risk associated with mechanical ventilation is reviewed. Airway management practices can have profound effects on outcomes in these patients. How patients are suctioned, types of processes used, effects of suctioning in patients with lung injury, and open versus closed suctioning systems all have been examined to determine best practices. Pneumonia is a common complication of mechanical ventilation (ventilator-associated pneumonia), and use of higher backrest elevations reduces risk of pneumonia, although compliance with such recommendations varies. The studies reviewed here describe backrest elevation practices, factors that affect backrest elevation, and the effect of backrest elevation on ventilator-associated pneumonia. Oral care strategies also have been investigated to determine their effect on ventilator-associated pneumonia. Oral care practices are reported to hold a low care priority, vary widely across care providers, and differ in intubated versus nonintubated patients. However, in several studies, oral applications of chlorhexidine have reduced the occurrence of ventilator-associated pneumonia. Although ventilator patients require sedation, sedation is associated with significant risks. The overall goals of sedation are to provide physiological stability, to maintain ventilator synchrony, and to ensure patients’ comfort—although methods to evaluate achievement of these goals are limited. Reducing risks associated with mechanical ventilation in critically ill patients is a complex and interdisciplinary process. Our understanding of the risks associated with mechanical ventilation is constantly changing, but care of these patients must be based on the best evidence.

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