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Anesthesiology/father-in-law on ventilator

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Question
Hello Dr. Porter,

My father-in-law overseas has been hospitalized with a lung or some type of respiratory infection and he cannot breath on his own.  My wife traveled 20 hours on an emergency flight and said they are keeping him sedated full time.  They said he needs sedation so his body does not fight the ventilator machine.  Does this make sense and do you feel this is a reasonable explanation or approach?  I cannot understand why they cannot allow him to come out of sedation for a short time to see and speak to his daughter which may give him some inspirational support.  The family overseas feel that the medical staff there have been unprofessional and not very responsive and we have no other means to question their approach.  Please let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Sanjay

Answer
Dear Sanjay,

Please accept my apologies for  the delayed response as I have been on vacation.

It is common practice for patients requiring mechanical ventilation to be placed on continuous sedation. This is done until the disease process has improved or resolved. At that point the sedation is discontinued and the weaning process from the ventilator is started. This is important for the patient because energy is devoted to fighting the infection and not the ventilator. Based on the information I have it appears that your father-in-law is receiving the appropriate care.

I cannot address the issues you raise about the responsiveness of your father-in-law's physicians. Perhaps a family meeting with the attending physician can answer the questions your family has with the care this gentleman is receiving.

Anesthesiology

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Charles T Porter Jr MD

Expertise

Questions in all fields of Anesthesiology except Pain Management.

Experience

I have been in the practice of Anesthesiology since 1981.

Organizations
American Society of Anesthesiologists, International Anesthesia Research Society, Texas Society of Anesthesiologists, Texas Medical Association

Education/Credentials
Graduate of the Citadel and the Medical University of South Carolina. Completed Anesthesiology residency at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, California. Board certified in Anesthesiology and a Fellow of the American College of Anesthesiologists.

Awards and Honors
Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society 1978, Outstanding Graduate Anesthesiology Resident Naval Medical Center San Diego California

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