MSK Innovation: New Ventilator Designed to Provide Respiratory Support in Emergencies

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A multidisciplinary team at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) has developed a proof-of-concept crisis ventilator intended to provide lifesaving breathing assistance to patients requiring it when more-sophisticated respiratory support equipment is unavailable. The device acts like a mechanical hand capable of manually bag ventilating an intubated patient.

Built and tested over the past several weeks, the Crisis Vent design is deliberately simple and publicly available so it can be easily and quickly constructed while providing basic functionality and reliability.

The design team, consisting of surgeons, biomedical engineers, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, and device development engineers, did not seek to recreate a traditional ventilator but rather to provide a bare minimum of functionality to support a patient when no other respiratory options exist. The design incorporates a self-refilling bag-valve-mask unit, a piece of equipment likely available despite other current equipment shortages.

While it has not been used clinically on patients, the device has performed as designed on a test lung in a simulated environment. Respiratory parameters, such as tidal volume and pressure, were measured and found acceptable. It has also proven to be reliable and, to date, has withstood run-in tests lasting more than 168 hours (seven days, or more than 120,000 cycles) without failure.

“The concept for the Crisis Vent was prompted by the current shortage of ventilators American healthcare facilities are facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Samuel Hellman, Manager of Mechanical Instrumentation in MSK’s Department of Medical Physics and one of the inventors of the Crisis Vent. “While the COVID-19 crisis presents an immediate use for an invention like this, we also envisage applications in the global health system in emergency scenarios and in areas with chronic shortages of lifesaving breathing equipment, such as ventillators.”