To investigate the frequency and cause of neonatal ventilator alarms. Neonatal ventilators frequently alarm and also disturb babies, parents and nurses. If frequent they may cause alarm fatigue and be ignored. The number, frequency and details of neonatal ventilator alarms are unreported.Methods
We developed programs for retrieving and analysing ventilator data each second on alarms and ventilation parameters from 46 babies ventilated with Dräger Babylog VN500 ventilators using various modes.Results
A mean of 60 hours was recorded per baby. Over 116 days, 27 751 alarms occurred. On average, that was 603 per baby and 10 per hour. Median (IQR) alarm duration was 10 (4–21) s. Type, frequency and duration varied between infants. Some babies had >10% of their time with alarms. Eight alarm types caused ~99% of all alarms. Three alarms, ‘MV
Frequent ventilator alarms are caused by physiological variability in the respiratory rate or minute volume, inappropriate alarm limits or too low maximum peak inflating pressure during volume-targeted ventilation. While most alarms were very short, sometimes alarms were ignored by neonatal intensive care unit staff for long periods.