Key messages

• A microprocessor facilitates high-speed and accurate control of inspiratory and expiratory valve events.

• Program control of tidal volume is designed to regulate gas flow from the inspiratory valve independent of the impedance of the patient's respiratory system.

• Factors contributing to the delay in achieving 'target pressure' in the breathing circuit include inspiratory valve response time, design and function of inspiratory and expiratory valves, inspiratory valve triggering mechanism, and the electronic logic (algorithm design, sensor signal transmission and processing, and speed of computation).

• Appreciation of the design and function of ventilators will enable clinicians to balance the potentially detrimental effects of ventilatory support with the desired physiological goals.

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