Engineers and physicians at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a low-cost, easy-to-use emergency ventilator for Covid-19 patients based on a ventilator bag usually found in ambulances.

An automated system that can be fabricated and assembled in just 15 minutes was developed around the pre-existing bags. The ventilator costs only $500 per unit, a drastic reduction on the $50,000 price tag of some emergency ventilators.

Known as the UCSD MADVent Mark V, it is the only device offering pressure-controlled ventilation equipped with alarms that can be adjusted to signal that the pressure is too low or too high. While most ventilators measure the volume of air being pumped into a patient’s lungs using expensive airflow sensors, the UCSD MADVent Mark V measures pressure and uses that data to assess and control airflow to the lungs.

The development team is now seeking US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the device.

UCSD School of Medicine anaesthesiology project scientist Dr Casper Petersen said: “This device could be a great option for use in situations where materials are scarce, such as when the normal supply chain breaks down, or in developing nations and hard-to-reach rural areas.”

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