A low-cost ventilator for areas with limited means

A project led by the University of Barcelona to which IBEC Group Leader Daniel Navajas has contributed has created a non-invasive low-cost ventilator to support patients with respiratory diseases in areas with limited means.

Non-invasive ventilators are usually used to treat patients with respiratory failure: for example, those with severe complications due to COVID-19.

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Experts from the Biophysics and Bioengineering Unit of the University of Barcelona, ​​the IN2UB, the August Pi i Sunyer Institute for Biomedical Research (IDIBAPS), the Respiratory Diseases Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERES) and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have developed a prototype of a low-cost non-invasive ventilator. 

All the details and technical features related to the use of this ventilator can be found in an article published recently in the European Respiratory Journal. In this work, the authors report that the prototype is non-invasive, which means that provides air through facial or nasal masks that introduce pressurized air into the lungs. 

The ventilator can be built at a very economic price using commercial components. Also, it can be easily replicated and is aimed at hospitals and health systems to help cover the demand of respiratory equipment due to the coronavirus and other severe lung diseases. 

According to the experts, this ventilator supports the natural breathing process when a disease causes the lungs to failbut it is not aimed at those patients with severe cases who are intubated and need a mechanical ventilator in the intensive care unit. 

For the construction of the respirator, the researchers carried out several tests using a small high-pressure turbine, two pressure transducer and a monitor with digital screen. Then, to assess the efficiency of the prototype the experts tested it in twelve healthy volunteers whose breathing was obstructed to simulate different levels of lung rigidity and respiratory obstruction. 

Participants wore facial masks over their nose to ease breathing and marked their feeling of comfort or discomfort, both with and without a respiratory support. Thanks to this, the researchers observed that the ventilator adapted to the spontaneous breathing rhythm and provided a feeling of breathing relief similar to a commercial ventilator. 

The team also conducted other tests using lung simulators to assess the response of the ventilator in patients with different levels of air flow obstruction and lung rigidity. This test was performed in sixteen different simulation situations and in all the simulated cases the prototype of the ventilator was efficient so that lungs could efficiently breath. 


Reference Article: Garmendia, M. A.Rodríguez-Lazaro, J. Otero, P. Phan, A. Stonyanova, A. Tuan Dinh-Xuan. D. Gozal, D. Navajas, J. M. Montserrat y R. Farré. «Low-cost, easy-to-build non-invasive pressure support ventilator for under-resourced regions: open source hardware description, performance and feasibility testing». European Respiratory Journalabril 2020.