New ventilator could allow more Covid patients to be ‘treated outside of intensive care’ - here’s how it works

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 9:18 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 9:29 am
The device is a negative pressure ventilator which works by lowering the pressure outside the body (Photo: PA)

A new type of ventilator, which may allow those severely ill with Covid to be treated outside intensive care units (ICU), has been designed in the UK.

The device, named exovent, is a negative pressure ventilator which works by lowering the pressure outside the body. This then allows lung tissue to expand and function in a way that is similar to normal breathing.

In comparison, conventional ventilators instead give positive pressure and push air into the lungs.

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‘May allow more patients with Covid-19 to be treated outside of intensive care’

Researchers behind the new ventilator - which still needs to be approved by regulators - have said that this device is more comfortable for the patient, costs less than the ventilators currently being used in ICU, and needs fewer staff.

The ventilator uses a mask or a tube to provide air, and doesn’t require patients to be sedated. Patients can also still eat and take medicine by mouth.

The device was designed by a team of anaesthetists, nurses and engineers, and uses a pump to adjust pressure around the torso. The patient’s torso can be monitored through a window and accessed through portholes.

The device was originally tested on six healthy adults and “was able to deliver both an increased lung expansion to people breathing spontaneously, and powerful ventilation to take over people’s breathing entirely, using only moderate negative pressures,” according to researchers.

A full clinical trial is needed in order to verify the results, but the company is planning to submit the design to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Ian Joesbury, the chief executive of exovent, said: “We are really excited to be unveiling this life-saving system which is a cutting-edge reinvention of pre-existing technology.

“As the patient does not need to be sedated it opens up alternative treatment options that may allow more patients with Covid-19 to be treated outside of intensive care.”