Traveling With A Ventilator

  • Plan Ahead

    Plan Ahead

    Things to keep in mind before leaving the house include:

    • Type of external power sources
    • Ventilator settings and circuit setup
    • All supplies are on-hand
    • Batteries are fully charged
    • DC auto lighter power adapter is in the car (to help save battery power)
    • Identify local DME and Home Health Care Providers at travel destination if traveling a long distance
  • Travel Supply Checklist

    Travel Supply Checklist
    • Manual resuscitator
    • Adequate portable oxygen (if needed)
    • DC auto lighter power adapter (if you have one)
    • AC power cord (use when an AC outlet is available at your destination)
    • Fully charged external battery and connector – bring an extra ifyou have one
    • Blunt-nose scissors
    • Breathing medications, if needed
    • Portable suctioning device
    • Suction catheters
    • Spare tracheostomy tubes with obturator and ties
    • Replacement inner cannula (for products using disposable inner cannula), or temporary inner cannula for use with reusable inner cannula tubes
    • Spare circuit
  • Air Travel

    Air Travel Considerations

    When you travel with a portable ventilator by air, plan well in advance. Educate yourself about relevant airline procedures and policies and check with your ventilator’s manufacturer to be sure your device is intended for use during air travel.

    Contact the airline

    Confirm the airline’s policies on travelling with a ventilator. When booking your flight, request extra airline personnel support if needed.

    Contact TSA

    Inform TSA of an upcoming flight to ensure safe passage through security checks. Make them aware of the specific equipment and its purpose before traveling.

    Provide required forms

    If required, provide a written explanation of the patient’s need for ventilation and attach it to the patient’s itinerary. Indicate that medical equipment and a wheelchair are needed onboard.

    Airlines also require a completed medical information sheet and letter from your doctor that includes the medical diagnosis and a statement attesting that the patient is cleared for travel.

    Your ventilation manufacturer can provide you with a document stating your ventilator is approved for air travel.

    Obtain approval for in-flight ventilation and oxygen

    The airline’s medical and engineering departments may need to approve ventilator use in flight. Provide the ventilator name, model number, and specifications, as well as the manufacturer’s name, address, phone number, and website address.

    Also check with the airline to get instructions about oxygen use on-board the plane. Most carriers permit portable oxygen concentrators but not cylinders of oxygen.

    Verify that the ventilator will fit under the seat, as required, to prevent it from posing a danger during turbulence or blocking other passengers. When positioning the ventilator, make certain there is adequate air intake for the device. Also, be aware that airline personnel may require the ventilator be turned off during takeoffs and landings.

    When traveling on multiple flights on different carriers, remember to inform all airlines involved about your ventilation needs and get approvals in advance.

    Pack to protect the secondary vent during transit

    • Use a modified luggage cart with bungee cords to help you move heavy equipment through airports and over long distances.
    • Bring an easy-open lightweight carrying case with enough space and pockets to pack protective towels, pads, and clothes around the ventilator.
    • If possible, avoid checking the ventilator as luggage. The ventilator could be mishandled during loading or damaged in flight in the baggage or cargo area.

    Bring adequate power or confirm the aircraft has outlets for medical use in flight

    • Some airlines allow the use of onboard electricity (possibly for a fee) through a medical electrical outlet.
    • Most airlines allow dry or gel cell batteries onboard if they can fit under the seat.
    • Test and confirm the ventilator’s internal and/or external battery use time before leaving for the airport and before boarding.

    Check oxygen availability during flight

    • Contact the airline to discuss the patient’s oxygen needs, the airline’s policy, and any fee involved for using oxygen.
    • The FAA permits passengers to use certain portable oxygen concentrator (POC) devices during flight.
    • In some circumstances, if a patient does not have a POC that complies with regulations, they may be able to use the oxygen supply of the plane.
    • Confirm your oxygen request with the check-in agent and gate agent to ensure all necessary preparations have been made.

    Prepare for possible technical problems with the ventilator

    • Before traveling, be sure you know what to do if the ventilator fails.
    • Ask your supplier how to have the device repaired at your destination, if needed.
    • Ask for an estimated time for a typical repair and whether loaner ventilators are available.
    • Respiratory specialists in medical centers and home healthcare agencies at the destination city may also help find repair or replacement facilities.
    • Spare circuit
    Get to the airport with ample time before departure
    • Airport security personnel may not have experience with ventilators and accessories.
    • Be prepared to explain that the equipment is a critical life-support system.
    • Allow enough time for officials to check the equipment.
  • Car Travel

    Car Travel Considerations

    Moving a patient remaining in a wheelchair into a vehicle

    • If the patient will remain in a wheelchair during transport, the transition will be very easy.
    • Just “drive” the chair into the vehicle. Make sure that the patient, wheelchair, and ventilator are fully secured.
    • Once the patient is transferred, use the DC auto lighter power adapter to power the ventilator from the vehicle's auto power port.

    Plan Ahead

    • The patient will need to be ventilated at all times. Two caregivers may be required to do this throughout the transfer process.
    • Always have a manual resuscitator ready and available for emergencies.

    Moving a patient out of a wheelchair into a vehicle

    • Depending on how the wheelchair and car are situated, it may be more appropriate to manually ventilate the patient during transfer from a wheelchair to a vehicle.
    • At all times, maintain the position of the trach tube to ensure that there is no tension on it and that it does not become dislodged.

    Moving the patient into the vehicle

    1. Move the ventilator and oxygen into the vehicle.
    2. Position and secure the ventilator, oxygen, and breathing circuit inside the vehicle.
    3. Check that the ventilator settings have not been disturbed.
    4. Move the patient into the vehicle.
    5. Confirm the placement of the ventilator’s breathing circuit to the patient.
    6. Ensure the patient is comfortable and resolve alarms as needed.
    7. Use a DC auto lighter power adapter connected to the vehicle’s auto port to power the ventilator.