Skip to main content
Dartmouth-Hitchcock logo
Summer Flowers In This Section

What You Need to Know About Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP)

Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP) is a lung infection that can happen to patients who are on ventilators (machines to help them breathe). This infection is very serious. About 15 percent (1 or 2 out of 10) of patients on ventilators get VAP. About half (50 out of 100) the patients with VAP die from it.

Some hospital patients need help breathing, either because they have just had a major operation or because they are very ill. These patients are often placed on a ventilator, a machine that supplies regular breaths through a tube inserted in the patient's mouth, nose, or through a hole in the front of the neck. Most of these patients recover, and the ventilator can be removed. However, there are proven ways to help prevent VAP – and patients and families can help to make sure these things are done.

A bundle of four care steps to prevent VAP

Doctors and nurses can help prevent VAP by using a bundle of four "care steps." Hospitals find that when all 4 of these steps are done that there are almost no cases of VAP. The bundle of care steps are:

  • Raising the head of the patient's bed between 30 and 40 degrees.
  • Giving the patient medication to prevent stomach ulcers.
  • Preventing blood clots when patients are lying very still.
  • Seeing if patients can breathe on their own when waking up after surgery.

How family members can help

Ask the nurses and doctors these questions:

  • Are you going to raise the head of the bed when [patient] is on the ventilator?
  • How are you going to prevent stomach ulcers?
  • What will you do to prevent blood clots?
  • When can [patient] try breathing on his or her own?

Learn more about ventilator-associated pneumonia as it relates to the 100,000 Lives Campaign at