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April 14, 2020

Australian researchers make ventilator-splitting breakthrough

By Chloe Kent

Australian researchers have successfully demonstrated the potential to ventilate two sets of lungs of different compliances from a single ventilator. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a worldwide shortage of ventilators and in a worst-case scenario such measures could be needed.

Royal Women’s Hospital anaesthesiologist Dr Alexander Clarke said: “While ventilator splitting has, at face value, validity in addressing ventilator shortages, we agree that on sober reflection, it is a solution that needs to be weighed up carefully as it may cause more harm than good.”

Connecting two patients to one ventilator and exposing them to the same circuit dynamics is far from ideal, especially if one of the patients is a 100kg male and the other a 50kg female. The research demonstrates that in such cases a flow restrictor apparatus can be applied to the inspiratory limb of the ventilator to the high-compliance set of lungs to allow both patients to simultaneously receive different levels of ventilation from the same machine.

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