hospitals innovate

Detail of ventilator parts from public and private hospitals that are being repaired at the General Motors factory on May 4, 2020 in Sao Caetano do Sul, Brazil. (representational image/Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI – A Delhi-based hospital has developed a device that multiplies the capacity of single ventilator to four. At a time when paucity of ventilators may pose a big threat before the country amid rising cases of coronavirus, such innovation may come as a boon.

A team of biomedical engineers from Max Healthcare has come up with an innovative solution to cope with the likely high demand for ventilators during the expected surge in COVID-19 patients. This innovation could increase the capacity of existing ventilators four-fold, thus helping serve a large number of patients.

With health experts warning that several countries do not have enough ventilators for a worst-case scenario, doctors and biomedical engineers have been trying to figure out how to innovate and modify their medical equipment to serve a large number of patients with limited resources.

Speaking to the media Yudhvir Singh, head of biomedical engineering of the hospital, said, "In 2012, I had read about the possibility of using a single ventilator for supporting 4 patients. During this emerging medical crisis, I asked employees to come up with innovative solutions for treatment and capacity management. This led me to think if we can modify the ventilators in the hospital to support more than one patient," said Singh.

"This would possibly make an immense contribution in the battle against the pandemic. My team and I then designed a simple but ingenious device, which can be safely attached to the ventilators, splitting the airflow into four distinct streams for 4 patients. We even produced this device in-house using the 3D printing facilities at our hospital."

Since, the country is under lockdown, it was not possible to get the device fabricated anywhere. But, it is available at the Saket branch.

Singh used ABS-Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a lightweight plastic, which is already approved for use in medical devices.

"To ensure that the patients on the ventilator are protected from infecting each other, we have installed the usual HME filters as well as bacterial and viral filters, which were available in the hospital. The hospital has also maintained a dedicated block for coronavirus patients and has started admitting them at the COVID-19 isolation wards.

In related news from Hyderabad, Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad director Prof. B.S. Murty has mooted the idea of using a 'bag valve mask' as an alternative to ventilators to meet any surge in demand, both in India and other countries, to treat COVID-19 patients.

While the conventional ventilators are expensive, hard to produce, and not portable, bag valve masks are small devices, which are used to deliver breathing support in emergency situations that are inexpensive, easy to produce and portable, said Murty.

A bag valve mask, often called 'Ambu Bag', is used for resuscitation in emergency situations.

The professors note that while 'bag valve masks' are currently hand-powered and therefore not suitable for continuous use as a ventilator, it would be easy to design a similar device powered by an electrical source, which could be a car battery, apart from the conventional power supply. It could be made portable, and therefore adopted in villages and other areas without power supply and be inexpensive enough to manufacture in bulk.

Meanwhile, a report on republicworld.com said that a senior U.S. diplomat said that America is cheering for Indian engineers who are in the race against time to develop a low-cost ventilator as the demand of the machine surges across the world.

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