A way of creating a ventilatory system for COVID-19 patients

Low-cost ventilatory support for COVID-19 patients.


Scientists at Leeds have found a way of repurposing existing medical technology to increase the number of breathing aids available for patients in this COVID-19 pandemic.

They have developed a new low-tech solution based on redesigning an existing medical device known as a Venturi valve. It works without electricity and does not require any moving parts.

Originally, it is a small plastic device that increased the flow of oxygen to a patient.

The device produces an effect much more like to continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP.

The valves being manufactured in a 3D printing machine at the University of Leeds
The valves being manufactured in a 3D printing machine at the University of Leeds

Dr Tom Lawton, Consultant in Critical Care and Anaesthesia at Bradford Teaching Hospitals, who collaborated on the project, said: “We are already seeing that treating Covid-19 patients with CPAP can help avoid the need for ventilators and intensive care; the key is to do this in a resource-efficient way.

“Devices like this venturi valve could be a key to expanding the use of CPAP across the globe.”

Maxillofacial Surgeon Jiten Parmar, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, another member of the research team, said: “This collaborative work has allowed for the innovation of a therapeutic oxygen delivery device for use in countries where there may be a lack of CPAP machines or oxygen supply.”

In a past study, scientists explained how a device used to help people with a condition called sleep apnoea could be adapted to treat COVID-19 patients.

Dr Pete Culmer, Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, said: “Our work has focused on investigating more rapid ways of getting life-saving technology to the side of patients as the pandemic spreads.”

“Across the world, there have been concerns about increasing the number of ventilators that are available. We have now looked at two solutions. Both involve adapting existing technologies and that dramatically reduces the time it takes to get equipment to the patient’s bedside.”

“Taking established technology and repurposing it means there is a greater chance that we can make real our solutions in a timely and effective way.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Delivery of CPAP respiratory support for COVID-19 using repurposed technologies. DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.06.20055665
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