An Ambu bag, also known as a bag valve mask resuscitator or BMV resuscitator, is a medical equipment that can be used in a medical emergency to help patients who are either not able to breath or are having trouble breathing. This is done by providing assisted ventilation using a squeezable bag with a face mask. The bag needs to be compressed in order to force air into the lungs.
Before the invention of this device, rescue breathing attempts often caused more problems. Techniques such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation proved futile. The problems that resulted before included abdominal distention, poor ventilation, vomiting, aspiration etc. Ambu bags were quite successful in providing improved emergency services.
The history of the Ambu bag involves a Danish engineer, Dr. Holger Hesse and an anaesthesiologist, Professor Henning Ruben. The two of them partnered to design a breathing apparatus that would significantly improve the survival chances of patients in emergency situations and those who were not in a hospital. The name “Ambu” comes from ambulance and the term bagging was coined by the rescue workers.
The Ambu mask has a squeezable bag, a one-way valve and a face mask. It is used by medical personnel such as nurses or respiratory therapists. Compressing the squeezable bag opens the valve, which forces air through the mask or an artificial airway into the lungs. This replaces the act of forcing air into the lung using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When the patient exhales, the bag automatically refills with oxygen or room air. This process continues until normal breathing occurs, or breathing is mechanically supported by a breathing machine.
The features include the bag, which is the main part of the device, an adapter and a one-way valve, as mentioned above. The bag can be attached directly to an endotracheal tube or a mask using the adapter. The one-way valve allows oxygen to flow to the patient and prevents the patient from breathing in their exhaled air. Some bags may also come with a reservoir, which can increase the amount of oxygen the patient receives.
The bags come in different sizes for infants, children and adults since different sizes are required to deliver the right tidal volume of air to the patient. This is because paediatric patients require special considerations since the back of their heads are larger, facial tissue is softer, lungs are smaller, tongue is larger and breathing is faster. Thus, attention to head positioning, a round face mask, a smaller bag and an oral airway to hold the tongue in place must be taken into consideration.
An Ambu mask is required when the patient faces respiratory failure and they stop breathing. The reasons for this to occur may involve cases such as drug overdose, severe asthma attacks, head injuries, near drownings etc. If the patient is initiating breathing by themselves, but the breathing is laboured or shallow, the Ambu bag may be employed to make breathing more efficient.
The procedure to use the Ambu bag is simple, and begins with attaching the tube connected to the bag to an oxygen source, like an oxygen cylinder. Then the litre flow must be turned to 10 to 15 litres per minute. The patient must be placed face-up, with their chin tilted slightly upwards in order to open up the airway. If the patient has a breathing tube, the Ambu bag must be attached directly to the end of the tube. If the patient does not have a breathing tube, the mask must be attached to the Ambu bag and placed over the patient’s nose and mouth firmly. The bag must be squeezed to force air into the lungs, at a rate of up to 20 breaths a minute.
The risks that are involved include hyperventilation due to squeezing the bag too fast. A condition called respiratory alkalosis may occur. If the part of the air goes into the stomach, this may cause abdominal distention which may interfere with breathing. Inserting a nasal gastric tube can release the trapped air and decrease the risk of this occurring.
The benefits associated with the Ambu bag is its ability to deliver increased amounts of oxygen via tubing. The oxygen tank also improved its versatility. It is used in intensive care units, emergency rooms and general care units. It is also of importance in the homes of patients who are dependent on breathing machines.
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