A group of scientists and researchers have designed a open source, low-cost ventilator to be used in areas that have limited means within their healthcare systems.
Researchers from the Biophysics and Bioengineering Unit of the University of Barcelona, Spain, have created an open source, non-invasive, low-cost ventilator, to support patients with respiratory diseases in areas with limited means.
The study was led by Ramono Farré, professor of Physiology and member of the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS) and the Respiratory Diseases Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERES), and the results were published in the European Respiratory Journal.
The study was published alongside open source technical features to build the ventilator.
Non-invasive ventilators are usually used to treat patients with respiratory failure: for instance, those with severe symptoms with COVID-19.
The ventilation is administrated through facial masks that bring pressured air to the lungs. This support to the natural breathing process, when the disease causes the lungs to fail, enables the body to fight the infection and therefore improve.
Farré said: “Considering the growing need for ventilator support devices everywhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we designed a ventilator that can be built with commercial elements at a low cost. The ventilator is aimed at hospitals and health systems to help cover the demand of respiratory equipment due to the coronavirus and other severe lung diseases.”
Open source building
The article describes how to build the low-cost ventilator in open code, and it can be copied in areas with limited means. The research team has designed, built, and carried out the tests for the ventilator using a small high-pressure turbine, two pressure transducer and a monitor with digital screen.
In order to build it one needs a basic knowledge on engineering, but no previous knowledge on ventilation, although the application in patients requires a medical supervision.
Testing the device
To assess the efficiency of the prototype of the low-cost ventilator compared to a commercial device, the research team tested it in 12 healthy volunteers.
The participants’ breathing was obstructed to simulate different levels of lung rigidity and respiratory obstruction. They wore facial masks over their nose to ease breathing and marked their feeling of comfort or discomfort, both with and without a respiratory support.
The tests showed the ventilator adapted to the spontaneous breathing rhythm and provided a feeling of breathing relief similar to a commercial ventilator.
Farré added: “Our tests showed the prototype could behave similarly to a high-quality conventional device providing support to patients who, with difficulties, can try to breathe by themselves.”
The prototype is a non-invasive ventilator that provides respiratory support; therefore, it is not aimed at those patients with severe cases who are intubated and need a mechanical ventilator in the intensive care unit.