Scientists have developed a low-cost ventilator requiring minimal training which they believe could help save lives if there is a second wave of coronavirus.
Researchers at Glasgow University began working on the design during the early stages of the UK virus outbreak in mid-March when ventilator demand was forecast to outstrip supply.
Fortunately, ventilator provision proved adequate but the team behind the new device believe it would prove invaluable if cases spike again.
They said manufacturing of the low-cost device, called GlasVent, could easily be scaled up and it could be used in care settings and the developing world.
The primary component is a bag valve mask – a handheld, balloonlike device which is already commonly used in emergency medical situations.
Medics squeeze the device by hand to pass air through a tube, which helps to inflate patients’ lungs and keep oxygen circulating.
The team has developed a way to automate the squeezing of the bag, allowing medics to concentrate on other aspects of care and standardising delivery of oxygen into patients’ lungs.
The device uses a microcontroller to control pressure and oxygen flow along with a 3D-printed slide crank.
In the event of a power outage, the crank’s simple design allows medics to operate it by hand, helping to keep the patient alive.
Glasgow University’s Professor Ravinder Dahiya and a team of engineers from his Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group have developed three variants of the device, ranging from a fully-manual option costing £35 to build to a battery-powered version with a parts cost of £135.
Prof Dahiya said: “When the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic started to become clear, my research group and I were keen to do whatever we could to help save lives.
“We’re proud that we’ve managed to go from design to build to testing in a matter of weeks.
“We’ve already conducted numerous successful tests on a medical mannequin fitted with artificial lungs, provided by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Paisley, so we’re confident that it is fit for purpose.
“We hope that once we receive regulatory approval, GlasVent could be used not just to buy some more time for critically-ill patients to either fight off disease or be put onto a mechanical ventilator, but to find use in care settings and in the developing world.
“While other groups around the world have developed other automated emergency ventilator designs, we believe that GlasVent is the only one which offers fully manual control and which requires little training or medical experience to operate.
“That makes it ideal for offering lifesaving support in places where access to power is unreliable and for use in almost any emergency situation where ventilation is required.”