"improving intensive care in Scotland"

Mechanical ventilation


Mechanical ventilation is one of the most common interventions made in intensive care. It is often life saving, but there are life threatening side effects associated with its use.

The main purpose of ventilation is to provide life support without causing harm to the lungs and the patient. A major form of harm is ventilator induced lung injury (VILI).

A sound knowledge of the underlying principles of mechanical ventilation is required for its effective and safe implementation. The information required can be obscured by the confusing terminology attached to the various modes of ventilation.

Click on the links in the table below to obtain further information.


Click on term for further information



Volume control 

Pressure control 

I:E ratio 


Table 1. Some basic terms used to describe ventilation settings

Page 2

Backwards Button Forward Button