When University at Buffalo researchers realized that ventilators were scarce, and getting scarcer, they got busy coming up with alternate solutions. It turns out that there was a relatively simplistic remedy to the problem, sitting right under their noses all along.
Medical workers have been using basic resuscitators for years. The low cost, easy to operate devices can be readily found in ambulances and emergency rooms. The only problem is that they are hand operated – someone needs to be pumping the device at all times, which is not very practical or even possible for any sort of longterm use.
Therefore, the UB researchers have been working on a way to modify the resuscitators so that they can be constructed as automatic units, instead of the traditional manual squeeze models. This has been accomplished by using relatively simple electronics and a device that squeezes the resuscitator, according to a UB news outlet.
“With the projected shortage of ventilators here in New York State and elsewhere, this is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately,” says one of the researchers leading the effort, Chi Zhou, PhD, associate professor in the UB Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Once the working model is deemed compatible with standard clinical practices, the UB researchers (doctors and engineers) will make the plans available online so that developing countries can construct and utilize the system. The plans – using off-the-shelf components – will be uploaded online by the team at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, thus being made available to developing countries that would not otherwise have the means to access this level of medical equipment for severely inflicted COVID-19 patients. In the States, the team is also seeking emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so that the device can be utilized by our own medical personnel.
If you’re wondering about the need for ventilators, with recent studies suggesting that they might be harmful to some patients, read this article. It says that the verdict is still out for the most part as studies continue, but that the hunt is on for “simpler and more widely available devices”. These devices include less-technical and more-noninvasive systems. The moral of the story is that since COVID-19 is new to everyone, the time has come to entertain new protocols, systems, and devices. Hopefully the UB team’s model proves to be just what the doctor ordered.
For the latest updates on the team’s progress, including design plans and future testing data, click here.
Other team leaders on the project include Sanjay Sethi, MD, professor; chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; and Ruogang Zhao, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, which is a joint program of the Jacobs School and the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The team also includes Albert Titus, PhD, chair of biomedical engineering; Julia Faller, clinical director of the Behling Simulation Center; and Tianjiao Wang, PhD student in industrial and systems engineering.