The coronavirus is straining the global health care system, and one piece of lifesaving medical equipment is in particularly scarce supply: mechanical ventilators. In situations of a shortage of this equipment, scientists think that ‘Splitting the ventilator’, connecting two patients to one ventilator machine is a feasible option.
Scientists from the Technical Medical Centre of the University of Twente came up with this idea.
Scientists used a double artificial lung to design the prototype of ‘Splitting the ventilator’. Later on, they tested it on several types of machines using existing medical equipment.
Scientists noted that, connecting two patients to one machine at the same time, is only possible during the phase of fully assisted ventilation.
But, patients have different lung capacities. So, in such situations, the system is capable of managing the differences.
It works by preparing the inflow of air, while also capturing and filtering the outflow.
No doubt, patients have to be fully separated.
For two patients, two input and two output tubes are needed. Splitting of the input and output can then be done using valves and filters.
What about a display machine?
The display machine shows the results of one patient. In that case, scientists recommend including sensors in both sets of tubes.
Scientists tested this way on three types of machines, covering 80 to 90 percent of the market in The Netherlands.
The tests were performed on a so-called ‘Michigan test lung’, an advanced simulator with two lungs. The machine is capable of modifying individual properties, for tests with various versions of machines, tubes, connecting parts and valves.
As the equipment has to be widely available fast, the design is based upon existing resources, already in use in hospitals. Together with suppliers, the team selected a set of existing tools for testing.
The research team, led by Professor Ruud Verdaasdonk, Professor of Health Technology Implementation, consists of intensive care doctors, lung physiologists, engineers, clinical physicists and technical physicians of University of Twente’s Technical Medical Centre and the hospitals Radboudumc, Amsterdam UMC and Medisch Spectrum Twente. An important contribution comes from Holland Innovative, advising on risk analysis and regulation for medical supplies.
‘Splitting the ventilator’, connecting two patients to one ventilation machine, is a feasible option in emergency situations during the COVID-19 crisis, especially in situations of shortage of this equipment. This is what researchers of the Technical Medical Centre of the University of Twente propose. Using existing medical equipment, they designed and tested it on several types of machines, using a double artificial lung. Together with experts of the hospitals Radboudumc (Nijmegen), Amsterdam UMC and Medisch Spectrum Twente (Enschede), a protocol was set up for using this technique with utmost care.
The Dutch Intensive Care Society already published this protocol online.