Bath engineers can double ventilator capacity

Engineers working at the University of Bath have come up with a model that will help get the most out of hospital ventilators during the COVID 19 crisis. Essentially they have published a mathematical model that shows how one ventilator can be used safely to help two patients. The Bath model enables doctors to calculate the amount of restriction required to safely ventilate the two patients using one ventilator.

As Covid-19 continues to put pressure on healthcare providers in the UK and around the world, the shortage of ventilators for patients has been one of the limitations on providing appropriate care.

Professor Richie Gill, Co-Vice Chair of the Centre for Therapeutic Innovation and the project’s principal investigator, says: “We are not advocating dual-patient ventilation, but in extreme situations in parts of the world, it may be the only option available as a last resort. The Covid-19 crisis presents a potential risk of hospitals running short of ventilators, so it is important we explore contingencies, such as how to maximise capacity.”

Dual-patient ventilation presents several challenges. It needs accurate identification of patients’ lung characteristics over time. Patients who are to be ventilated together must have similar characteristics.

Prof Gill adds: “This isn’t something we’d envisage being needed for critical-care patients. However, one of the issues with Covid is that people can need ventilation for several weeks. If you could ventilate two recovering patients with one machine it could free up another for someone in critical need.”

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