As the world continues to confront the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most immediate concerns is the serious lack of ventilators, devices that help seriously ill patients to breathe. To help deal with this shortage, a team of Cleveland Clinic researchers from across the enterprise—including the Department of Biomedical Engineering—has built and tested a prototype of a simple, inexpensive emergency ventilator that may help to prevent a similar situation in the future.
In unprecedented fashion, there were developed areas of the world where ventilator demand exceeded hospital capability, according to Neal Chaisson, MD, a pulmonologist in the Respiratory Institute, director of the Critical Care Medicine Fellowship and co-lead for the project. “This means that there is the need for organizations with the proper resources to consider rapidly deployable ventilator solutions for emergency use,” he noted. “We’ve decided to take that step.”
Although several organizations have built ventilator prototypes as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Cleveland Clinic team has tested the ventilator prototype and plans to market it for future emergencies as a simple, inexpensive device specifically for hospitals and governments to stockpile. “The testing was successful in simulated respiratory failure—especially in coronavirus-like conditions,” said Dr. Chaisson.
The ventilator can be used by modern hospitals equipped with wall outlets for air and oxygen. Users can connect the ventilator to their own air and oxygen flow meters that provide a total flow range of approximately 0-30+ L/min. Plans are being developed to modify it for resource-poor environments, as well. Dr. Chaisson says that one of the principal advantages of this ventilator is its simplicity. “There are few bells and whistles to confuse less experienced providers.”
The cross-enterprise team includes project co-directors Dr. Chaisson and Robert Chatburn, MHHS, RRT-NPS, FAARC, and members from the Biomedical Engineering, Clinical Engineering, and Pediatrics departments, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM), and the Respiratory Institute. According to Dr. Chaisson, the original idea for the emergency ventilator came from three CCLCM students and quickly built into a multi-disciplinary project.
“Seeing people from all backgrounds of research and care come together to answer the call of patient need, building something that has tremendous benefit for patients all across our healthcare system and potentially even beyond, is inspiring and a great testament to how our caregivers respond in the face of challenge.”