Verbal communication of ventilator-dependent patients

Crit Care Med. 1993 Apr;21(4):512-7. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199304000-00009.


Objective: To assess whether communication capabilities of ventilator-dependent patients are improved by the use of the Passy-Muir unidirectional valve.

Design: Prospective study.

Setting: An 18-bed multidisciplinary intensive care unit (ICU) at the University Hospital, Las Palmas, Spain.

Patients: Ten chronic ventilator-dependent patients who had undergone tracheostomy and met the following criteria: ability to eliminate tracheobronchial secretions in order to maintain a patent and unobstructed airway, adequate gas exchange while ventilated with an FIO2 of < or = 0.4 (Pao2 > 60 torr [8 kPa]), Paco2 of < 55 torr (7.3 kPa), normal hemodynamics without the need for administration of vasopressors, and normal mental state. Eight patients presented with pulmonary disease, and two presented with neuromuscular disease.

Interventions and methods: Before attaching the Passy-Muir valve, the following procedures were performed: a) suction of tracheal and pharyngeal secretions; b) deflation of the tracheostomy tube cuff; c) increase in the ventilator's tidal volume setting to maintain the inspiratory pressure before cuff's deflation; d) set peak inspiratory pressure alarm and disconnect expiratory volume alarm. The valve was then connected between the tracheostomy tube and the Y-shaped piece of the ventilator's circuit. Respiratory movements, arterial blood gases, peak inspiratory pressure, respiratory rate, quantity of secretions, and changes in sense of smell were monitored during the study. The valve's efficacy was evaluated according to the patient's ability to talk and be understood during the entire respiratory cycle.

Results: The Passy-Muir valve was effective in improving communication in eight of ten patients who, during its use, presented insignificant cardiorespiratory changes, decreased secretions, and effected considerable improvement in well-being. Its use was impossible in two patients: one with severe pulmonary disease because cuff deflation prevented adequate ventilation, and one patient with neuromuscular disease and laryngopharyngeal dysfunction.

Conclusions: The Passy-Muir unidirectional valve allows ventilator-dependent patients to talk and communicate without assistance. Patients felt better and were motivated to participate in their own care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Equipment Design
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / instrumentation*
  • Smell
  • Speech*
  • Tracheostomy / instrumentation*