Study objectives: The safety of home ventilators has been questioned. We collected data to study the following: frequency of home ventilator failure, apparent causes for the failure or malfunction, and adverse consequences following the failure.
Study design: Information on all requests to correct home ventilator failures reported to a home respiratory equipment vendor was collected prospectively between November 1991, and November 1992.
Patients: There were 150 ventilator-assisted patients aged 2 to 77 years; 44 were < or = 18 years. They received 841,234 h of home mechanical ventilation (average, 15.4 h/d per ventilator-assisted patient).
Results: There were 189 reports of home ventilator failure. Defective equipment or mechanical failure was found in only 39% (73 reports), equivalent to one home ventilator failure for every 1.25 years of continuous use. Other causes of ventilator failure included the following: improper care, damage, or tampering with the ventilator by caregivers (13%), functional equipment improperly used by caregivers (30%), and equipment functional but the patient's condition changed, mimicking ventilator failure (3%). No problem could be identified in 16%. The following actions were required: ventilator replacement (44%), repair of a defective part (6%), replacement of a functioning ventilator for psychological comfort (14%), ventilator adjustments made (21%), caregiver reeducation (7%), caregiver anxiety or distress reduced (3%), and no action required (4%). Hospitalization was required only in two cases (1%). No adverse outcomes, deaths, or serious injuries were associated with home ventilator failure.
Conclusions: We conclude that in 150 patients requiring home mechanical ventilation, ventilator failure occurred relatively infrequently, and there were no adverse outcomes as a result of equipment failure at home. We speculate that equipment failure is not a frequent or serious problem for ventilator-assisted patients treated at home.