January 21, 2021

New negative-pressure ventilator to help treat COVID-19 patients

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

A new negative-pressure ventilatory support device, similar to the “iron lung” used to treat polio patients in the 1950s, provides an additional treatment option for COVID-19 patients, finds this study by researchers in the UK’s Exovent Task Force, formed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ventilator is light-weight and noninvasive, which allows patients to remain conscious, and they can eat, take medications, and talk.


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The ventilator’s chamber consists of a base fitted on a standard hospital bed that contains its own section of mattress and a removable top that fits over the torso with thin neoprene neck and hip seals. A free-standing pump is connected to the base by flexible hoses.

Testing was performed on six member of the development team. Various negative pressure settings were tested. Results showed that the ventilator was able to deliver an increased lung expansion to those breathing spontaneously and powerful ventilation to take over a patient’s breathing entirely, using only moderate negative pressures.

The volunteers all found the chamber comfortable, that the neck and hip seals were soft and easy to adjust, and that they could voluntarily breach the seals to stretch their arms or touch their faces without significantly affecting the stability of the chamber pressure.

A big advantage, the authors say, is that the system requires fewer staffing resources, making it less expensive to use. 

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