Our respiratory therapy program evaluation process begins with an interview, limited physical examinations and diagnostic tests. For example, respiratory therapists may test patients’ breathing capacity and determine the concentration of oxygen and other gases in patients’ blood. They also measure patients’ pH, which indicates the acidity or alkalinity of the blood. To evaluate a patient’s lung capacity, respiratory therapists have the patient breathe into an instrument that measures the volume and flow during inhalation and exhalation. By comparing the reading with the norm for the patient’s age, height, weight and sex, respiratory therapists can help determine whether the patient has any lung deficiencies. To analyze oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH levels, therapists draw an arterial blood sample, place it in a blood gas analyzer and relay the results to a physician, who then makes treatment decisions.
To treat patients, respiratory therapists use oxygen or oxygen mixtures, chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications. When a patient has difficulty getting enough oxygen into his or her blood, therapists increase the patient’s concentration of oxygen by placing an oxygen mask or nasal cannula on the patient and set the oxygen flow at the level prescribed by a physician or by following established protocols. Therapists also connect patients who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators that deliver pressurized oxygen into the lungs. The therapists insert a tube into the patient’s trachea, connect the tube to the ventilator, and set the rate, volume and oxygen concentration of the oxygen mixture entering the patient’s lungs.
Therapists also perform regular assessments of patients and equipment. If the patient appears to be having difficulty breathing or if the oxygen, carbon dioxide or pH level of the blood is abnormal, therapists change the ventilator setting according to the doctor’s orders or established protocols or check the equipment for mechanical problems. In home care, therapists teach patients and their families to use ventilators and other life-support systems. In addition, our therapists visit patients several times a month to inspect and clean equipment and to ensure its proper use. Therapists also make emergency visits if equipment problems arise.
Respiratory therapists perform chest physiotherapy/positive-pressure breathing treatments on patients to remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier for them to breathe. For example, during surgery, anesthesia depresses respiration, so chest physiotherapy/positive-pressure breathing treatments may be prescribed to help get the patient’s lungs back to normal and prevent congestion. Chest physiotherapy also helps patients suffering from lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, that cause mucus to collect in the lungs. Therapists place patients in positions that help drain mucus, and then vibrate the patients’ rib cages and instruct the patients to cough.
Respiratory therapists also administer aerosols—liquid medications suspended in a gas that forms a mist, which is inhaled—and teach patients how to inhale the aerosol properly to ensure its effectiveness.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (813) 788-0411.