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University of Michigan 3D prints device that could allow multiple patients to use same ventilator

The device supports multiple people by providing individually tailored gas pressures and monitoring.
Credit: U of M

ANN ARBOR, Mich — When experts predicted a surge in COVID-19 cases and possible ICU equipment shortages, University of Michigan healthcare workers started making a controlled way to expand ventilator capacity.

Now, U-M and Michigan Medicine researchers invented an individualized vent-splitter that may allow multiple patients to receive customized pressures while sharing a ventilator.

U-M has filed for patent protection on the technology and a local start-up, MakeMedical, LLC, has liscensed the technology and developed it into the VentMITM device.

The device has been tested on animals and received emergency use authorization from the FDA. 

“It has taken relentless positive action by a large number of individuals all motivated by the common good to make this happen,” says Glenn Green, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and co-developer of the technology.

The team has spent the last few weeks using in-house 3D printing to produce multiple prototypes. test them on machines in a hospital operating room, and evaluate how the technology worked on pigs.

The FDA's emergency authorization means the device can be used on humans if needed.

“We have been working 24/7 to develop a system that could at least double ventilator capacity,” says Michigan Medicine otolaryngologist Kyle VanKoevering, M.D., who is also an associate faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Engineering.

 VanKoevering also said, “We were looking for innovative ways to potentially help hospitals that were preparing for a ventilator shortage during the pandemic.”

The device is being manufactured in partnership with Grand Rapids facility Autocam Medical, with hundreds of devices available for public distribution before the end of April. MakeMedical, LLC will market the product domestically and internationally, and is in the process of partnering with distributors.

MakeMedical co-founders include Green, VanKoevering, Mott pediatric head and neck surgeon David Zopf, M.D., and Ann Arbor business owner Owen Tien.

SARS-CoV-2, the respiratory virus that causes COVID-19, can cause pneumonia and respiratory distress. In sever cases, patients need a ventilator to support their lungs.

There are significant limitations to more than one patient using the same ventilator at a time. One of the biggest problems is that, without individualized controls, shared ventilator circuits will only deliver one pre-set pressure to all patients using the ventilator.

Patients sharing a ventilator need to have a similar lung size with the same abilities to stretch and expand. Otherwise, one patient could receive excessive pressure on their lungs, which can cause trauma.

“We plan to make the devices available to be used across the world,” VanKoevering says. “Our goal is to help provide lifesaving care to every critically ill patient who needs it during this pandemic.”

Hospitals and centers that are interested in receiving the device, may make inquiries online by visiting MakeMedical's website.

Michigan Medicine released a video about the device on their YouTube channel:

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