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Defining “normal” breathing

During normal breathing, you inhale air through your mouth and/or nose. The air goes into the lungs. Then, you exhale back out through your mouth and/or nose.

Your diaphragm is the major muscle used for breathing.

The average number of breaths a minute is 12 to 20 for adults.1 Babies and children breathe faster.2 Many factors can affect this rate.

Who uses ventilation

People from all walks of life use mechanical ventilation – and they range in age from newborn to adult.

If your respiratory muscles can’t do the work of effective breathing, a ventilator can do it for you.

A ventilator helps a patient breathe in oxygen and blow out carbon dioxide. Depending on the patient’s condition, a ventilator can be set up to do some or all of the work for the patient’s breathing.

People may need ventilator support for a variety of reasons; some include:3
  • Stroke
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Trauma
  • Neuromuscular Disorder
  • Respiratory Diseases (such as COPD)
  • Morbid Obesity (resulting in respiratory failure)

Types of use

Depending on a patient’s needs, a ventilator may be used at certain times during the day, only at night, or around the clock. Some patients may need a ventilator for a short recovery period, like after surgery or a traumatic injury. Others require long-term use of a ventilator and their needs could change based on the illness they have.


  1. Vital Signs. Cleveland Clinic website. Accessed Marcj 27, 2018.
  2. Normal Values in Children. ACLS Medical Training website. Accessed March 27, 2018.
  3. Respiratory Failure. National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Accessed March 27, 2018.

The information and guidance presented on this website is informational only and not intended to influence practice or supersede the instructions for use of any specific device.