Alarm strategies and surveillance for mechanical ventilation

Brian K. Walsh, Jonathan B. Waugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Clinical alarms, including those for mechanical ventilation, have been one of the leading causes of health technology hazards. It has been reported that < 15% of alarms studied rose to the level of being clinically relevant or actionable. Most alarms in health care, whether by default or intention, are set to a hypothetical average patient, which is essentially a one size fits most approach. A method of tuning to individual patient characteristics is possible, similar to the treatment philosophy of precision medicine. The excessive amount of alarms in a clinical environment is thought to be the largest contributing factor to alarm-related adverse events. All these factors come to bear on human perception and response to mechanical ventilation and clinical alarms. Observations of human response to stimuli suggest that response to alarms is closely matched to the perceived reliability and value of the alarm system. This paper provides a review examining vulnerabilities in the current management of mechanical ventilation alarms and summarizes best practices identified to help prevent patient injury. This review examines the factors that affect alarm utility and provides recommendations for applying research findings to improve safety for patients, clini cian efficiency, and clinician well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-831
Number of pages12
JournalRespiratory care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Alarm
  • Alarm management
  • Alarm surveillance
  • Alarms strategy
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Ventilation
  • Ventilator alarm management
  • Ventilator alarms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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