Low-cost ventilator could be a game-changer in the Covid-19 pandemic

Hyperaxion Apr 21, 2020

The device was developed by a team from the University of Barcelona, Spain, and costs half the price of devices available on the market.

A team led by researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain, developed a non-invasive, low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator that can help patients with respiratory failure. The method of construction of the device was shared by scientists in the European Respiratory Journal last Thursday (16) and could help doctors around the world to reproduce the apparatus during the Covid-19 pandemic, caused by the new coronavirus.

Low-cost ventilator could be a game-changer in the Covid-19 pandemic
The internal build of the ventilator prototype with labels indicating the off-the-shelf components. (Credit: Prof. Ramon Farré).

Non-invasive ventilators are used to treat patients with respiratory failure, a common symptom in more severe cases of Covid-19. Non-invasive ventilation is performed through the use of a facial or nasal mask, which “pushes” pressurized air into the lungs, assisting in the natural breathing process.

The equipment developed by the team consists of a small high-pressure fan, two pressure transducers and a controller with digital display. The total cost is approximately U$75 – less than half the price of the product available on the market today.

Prototype ventilator during use.
Prototype ventilator during use. (Credit: Prof. Ramon Farré).

“In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the escalating need for respiratory support devices around the world, we designed a ventilator that can be built at a low cost using off-the-shelf components,” said research leader Ramon Farré in a statement.

To assess the efficiency of the prototype, the research team tested it on twelve healthy volunteers, who had artificially obstructed breathing. According to the experts, the experiments showed that the ventilator adapted to the participants’ breathing rhythm and provided a sense of relief in breathing similar to that caused by products currently on the market.

Display panel for the low-cost, easy to build prototype ventilator.
Display panel for the low-cost, easy to build prototype ventilator. (Credit: Prof. Ramon Farré).

The team also conducted tests on respiratory models in which lung modeling is used to assess how well the ventilator supports breathing in patients with different levels of airflow obstruction or restriction. According to the scientists, the prototype proved to be effective in 16 different scenarios.

“Our tests showed that the prototype would perform similarly to a conventional, high-quality device when providing breathing support for patients who, although with great difficulty, can try to breathe by themselves,” said Farré. “This low-cost device could be used to treat patients if commercial devices are not available, and it provides clinicians with a therapeutic tool for treating patients who otherwise would remain untreated.”

Related topics:

Coronavirus Covid-19

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