Faced with the rapid spread of coronavirus and the challenges that hospitals are facing around the world, a team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed a low-cost ventilator design that could help meet the worldwide shortage of these life-saving devices. The team called MIT E-Vent was formed on March 12 in response to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they designed a simple ventilator device that could be built with about $100 (approximately Rs. 7,530) worth of parts.
Ventilators are extremely expensive medical equipment which cost around $30,000 (approximately Rs. 22,66,000) per unit. They are used to keep the patients breathing in times when they are no longer capable of doing so on their own.
According to the report by MIT News, the low-cost ventilator design includes a key component called bag-valve resuscitator or the Ambu bag, which is an inexpensive alternative to a ventilator and is a manually-operated hand-held pouch. Hospitals already have Ambu bags in huge quantities and they are designed to be operated by hand, by a medical professional or emergency technician, to provide breaths to a patient in situations like cardiac arrest, until an intervention such as a ventilator becomes available.
For this to work, a tube is inserted in the airway of the patient, and the air is pumped into the lungs by squeezing and relaxing the pouch.
The team of students have added a mechanical system to the Ambu bag because this is not a process that a person could be expected to do for an extended period. Additionally, the team has also made sure that the device must be very reliable since an unexpected failure of the device could be fatal. And if in case it does fail then the bag can be immediately operated manually.
The MIT E-Vent team, which is an all-volunteer team of students working without funding have made it clear that this is not something to be taken as a do it yourself (DIY) project since it requires specialized understanding of the clinical-technical interface. In a short amount of time, a working prototype of the equipment is being tested and feedback has been sought from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).