Professor Amoako and students of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the University of New Haven have developed 3D printed flow connectors so that physicians can double up severe COVID-19 patients on one ventilator, and they developed the connectors over a couple of days while working remotely.
His group is willing to donate these flow connectors to critical care units that need them to augment their COVID-19 case surge critical care support strategies. “Based on the trajectory of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and fatality in the US, it is not unrealistic to think that we may face similar experiences of not having enough ventilators to provide respiratory support for the sick as is currently happening in Italy and Spain”…said Dr. Amoako.
So How Does A Mechanical Ventilator Work?
Mechanical ventilators are often used to provide respiratory support for critically ill patients. These patients, for several reasons, can’t breathe on their own and so a tube is advanced down their trachea and held just before where the trachea bifurcates. The other end of this tube is connected to the mechanical ventilator which flows oxygen into and removes carbon dioxide out of the patient’s lungs.
How Will the Connectors Allow one Ventilator to Provide Respiratory Support for Two COVID-19 Patients?
Typically, breathing machines conduct oxygen through a single tube (inspiratory line) to the patient’s lungs. Another single tube (expiratory line) will then conduct expired gases away from the lungs. With the 3D printed connectors that Dr. Amoako and his students of the Biomaterials and Medical Device Innovation Laboratory at UNH has developed, the inspiratory and expiratory lines can be bifurcated so that two patients can be hooked up to a single breathing machine.
Has this been tried on humans before?
Patients who suffered wounds to the torso and neck from the Las Vegas mass shootings needed respiratory support to keep them alive for treatment. With limited mechanical ventilators, the attending physician and care team divided the ventilator inspiratory and expiratory lines and were able to support patients for hours before they received treatment. This method of dividing up tubing of the breathing machine was published in the Academy of Emergency Medicine journal in 2006.
Guidelines Suggested by a 2006 Critical Care Medicine Paper Authored by Dr. Gred Neyman and Dr. Charlene Babcock:
The pair of patients must be of similar age so lung sizes are similar
The inspiratory and expiratory lines should be of the same length for each patient
Lung disease states of patients should be similar
This will be off-label use of the ventilator