Different Ventilation-Assist Devices

Ventilation-assist devices are used to increase effectiveness of rescue Different Ventilation-Assist Devicesbreathing as well as to protect the first aider from possible infections while providing first aid. The use of these devices is usually taught in advanced first aid training courses for certified first aiders and healthcare professionals.

Two of the most commonly used devices include the pocket face mask and the bag valve-mask. Ideally, these devices are used with oxygen supply but may also be used in emergency situations even without oxygen.

Pocket face mask

Pocket face mask or CPR mask is a device that is similar with the resuscitator facepiece. It is most commonly used in remote rescue missions where oxygen supply is not available.

This breathing aid is made of soft collapsible material thus can be easily carried in the pocket or stacked in a simple first aid kit. CPR masks are available with or without an oxygen inlet. This device allows the rescuer to provide oxygen through a chimney on the mask. If oxygen available the rescuer is able to ventilate the victim with air from the oxygen source and his own lung. Pocket face mask can deliver up to a maximum of 80% oxygen concentration when used simultaneously with an oxygen source. When used without oxygen, it is still way better than mouth-to-mouth technique which can only deliver up to 16% oxygen.

The pocket face mask allows the rescuer to firmly hold the mask while ensuring proper head-tilt position. It may also be used without inserting oral airway when the airway is clear and there is no time to establish such oral airway device. To learn to use a pocket mask enrol in Red Cross CPR programs here.


Unlike the face mask, the bag-valve-mask (BVM) is bulky, with a detachable plastic bag and a mask. BVM is a hand-held device that is commonly used to ventilate nonbreathing victims. It may also be used to assist victims who have ineffective breathing pattern (shallow, labored and failing breathing) due to drug overdose. The bag-valve-mask comes in different sizes (newborn, pediatric, and adult sizes). It is important that the rescuer uses the right size of BVM to deliver the expected amount of oxygen.

It requires adequate training through advanced first aid course to properly and effectively use the bag-valve-mask. One problem with this device is that it is not easy establishing an effective seal. In fact, even healthcare providers need to go through training and practice to properly use this breathing-assist device. Without proper training, the use of BVM is futile.

When used for CPR, it is recommended that there are at least 2 rescuers: one secures and pumps the BVM while the other rescuer applies the chest pumps. If used properly, the BVM can be very effective; delivering up to 100% oxygen when connected with an oxygen source and 21% when there is no oxygen. To learn to use a bag-valve mask enrol in Red Cross CPR HCP courses here.

The Canadian Red Cross offers advanced training courses for healthcare workers to ensure the effective use of these breathing-assist devices.

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