Ventilators in the Focus of Research

The ventilators on an intensive care ward of a hospital offer a vital lifeline to the sickest and most vulnerable patients, providing the oxygen that keeps them alive when they are unable to breathe for themselves. However, the use of these machines can come at a price. Every year patients are left with debilitating lung injuries.

Now, a research collaboration is to use computer modelling of lungs based on information collected from real patients to look at the best way of using ventilators to treat patients while minimising the risk of injury.

Doctor Jonathan Hardman of The University of Nottingham said: “For patients who don’t have the ability to breathe for themselves there is simply no other option than using a ventilator — it’s like carrying someone who is just too exhausted to walk.”

But on the other hand, Hardman argues, ventilator-associated injuries extend the length of time a patient needs to spend in intensive care, putting them at risk of developing an un-related infection or the degradation of the muscles needed for breathing independently. Besides, he adds, such extra days spent on the Intensive Care Unit are expensive for the health system.

It is now planned to recreate a population of patients with a variety of illnesses and injuries which will allow the scientists to look at the different permutations of treatment for those. The aim is to produce believable computer models of lungs. These could be used to test a range of different uses of the ventilator, for example, varying the amount of oxygen supplied to the patient or the number of breaths per minute provided by the machine.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Nottingham