It is now obvious that many countries — the United States included — are woefully unprepared for a widespread pandemic like the one we’re currently experiencing. We’re in dire economic straits, grocery stores are running out of essential products, and panic is rampant. Even medical treatment for confirmed COVID-19 cases may soon become difficult. A study from 2013 found that there are only 62,000 ventilators in United States hospitals. At the time of this writing, there are more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases in the US. It’s apparent that we could easily run out of ventilators for every patient. That’s why a team from MIT has developed a device to automate the use of manual resuscitators.
In contrast to automated ventilators, there are a lot of manual resuscitators available. Just about every bed in every hospital in the United States has an Ambu-Bag-style manual resuscitator nearby. These are intended for emergency situations and require that a nurse or doctor squeeze the bag rhythmically to force air into the patient’s lungs. But patients suffering from COVID-19 may need long term breathing assistance, and we simply don’t have enough medical personnel to attend to every patient for extended periods of time. That’s what ventilators are normally intended for, but MIT’s E-Vent project could help lighten the load.
E-Vent is a device that automatically actuates manual resuscitators like the Ambu-Bag. That actuation is driven by an off-the-shelf gear motor, which has enough torque to handle the job. That’s controlled by an Arduino Uno board via a standard motor driver. A toggle switch and four potentiometers are used to adjust the parameters to suit a patient’s specific needs. A pressure transducer connected the patient airway ensures that everything is working as it should. The MIT team is quick to point out that there are potential hazards associated with E-Vent and that a doctor should be observing its use at all times. But in an emergency situation like the one we find ourselves in, E-Vent could still save many lives.