It is a very clear under the current situation, a shortage of ventilators would put lives at risk especially for patients infected with COVID-19 during their critical stage.

On 30 March 2020, the global number of cases reported regarding this pandemic COVID-19 is 721,562, with 33,965 of death cases and 151,128 of recovered cases [1]. In Malaysia, the total number of cases reported by Director-General of Health Malaysia is 2,470 cases [2]. From this total number, 35 and 388 were the death and recovered cases respectively. Therefore, hospitals around the globe are trying to equip with more ventilators as the number of patients infected with coronavirus keep on increasing.

Without ventilators, patients infected with coronavirus which have chances to survive the infection will die. A ventilator is basically a machine that mechanically operates and it is used to aid patients with severe respiratory conditions that impact the lungs, including pneumonia.

In a simple way, a failure lung due to disease has caused a ventilator to take over the body’s breathing process when the patients are no longer can breathe on their own. During this period, the patients have a longer time to fight off the infection and recover. However, these machines can cost up to $30,000 (RM 130,000.00) each.

We might ask, how does a ventilator assist the patients? Once the virus enters the lungs, it causes damage to the respiratory system. The immune system will directly respond to this situation and cause blood vessels to expand so that more immune cells could enter to fight the virus.

What will happen after this? Fluid fills the lungs and makes the patients harder to breathe which significantly affecting the oxygen levels to drop. Therefore, to relieve this condition, a  ventilator machine is employed to drive more air into the lungs so that the levels of oxygen will be increased.

The ventilator is equipped with a humidifier which is used to control heat and moisture to the medical air which will fit the patients’ body temperature. At this moment, patients are provided with prescription to relax the respiratory muscles and as a result, their breathing can be totally regulated by the machine.

This current situation with the rapid growth of coronavirus cases, the shortage of ventilators is totally a crisis. How many ventilators are required by the hospitals? According to BBC [3], a publicly funded healthcare system in England which is National Health Service (NHS) has reported that they just have 8,175 ventilators and immediately looking for more to come in. The UK government has said that they require up to 30,000 ventilators at this peak situation of pandemic COVID-19.

The technology firm from British entrepreneur Sir James Dyson who is the founder of Dyson company has responded and confirmed to an initial order of 10,000 units from the U.K. government has been placed [4]. The newly designed ventilators from Dyson, name as CoVent was designed and developed from scratch, which has been tested on humans and “ready to go”.

CoVent: Dyson’s ventilator. @DYSON

In order to provide enough ventilators to hospitals, Gtech company has designed and built a prototype without a power source that  is able to completely operate as the hospital oxygen supply.

Ventilator by Gtech

Meanwhile, Urbicum company, a manufacturer of 3D printers, has developed and produced life-saving devices cheaply in a short time using 3D -printing technique to respond to the shortage of ventilators [5].

3D-Print Ventilator by Urbicum

Universities such as Oxford University, had come out with a new innovation of ventilator with an innovative design for a low-cost version. This cheaper ‘off-the-shelf’ version may shortly be able to lift the number of shortage ventilators.

Low-cost Ventilator by Oxford University

On the other hand, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has proposed a free plan online for an emergency ventilator that can be built for $100, called MIT E-Vent (for emergency ventilator) [6]. They have been working to execute a safe and economical alternative for emergency purposes, which possibly to be built rapidly around the world. It is a hand-operated plastic pouch known as a bag-valve resuscitator, or Ambu bag that already available largely in hospitals.

Low-Cost Ventilator by MIT

People linked to the companies and university indicated to save many lives during the growth of pandemic COVID-19. These meaningful projects need aids and feedbacks from the frontlines such as doctors, medics, and nurses so that the designers and engineers could precisely stipulate the machine in this emergency.

DR. AMIR PUTRA BIN MD SAAD
Senior Lecturer

Applied Mechanics and Design
School of Mechanical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering

Research Fellow
Medical Devices and Technology Centre (MEDiTEC)
Institute of Human Centered Engineering (iHumEn)
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)

 

References:

  1. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
  2. http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52036948
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddawkins/2020/03/26/billionaire-james-dyson-confirms-initial-order-of-10000-ventilators-will-made-in-britain-at-raf-hullavington/#5a37d4ef1660
  5. https://polandin.com/47241192/poles-construct-first-3d-printed-lifesaving-ventilator
  6. https://scitechdaily.com/mit-posts-free-plans-online-for-an-emergency-ventilator-that-can-be-built-for-100/