The authorities has ordered 1000’s of ventilators to assist ease the strain on hospitals attributable to the coronavirus disaster.
For sufferers with the worst results of the an infection, a ventilator presents the very best probability of survival.
What is a ventilator and what does it do?
Simply put, a ventilator takes over the physique’s respiratory course of when illness has precipitated the lungs to fail.
This offers the affected person time to battle off the an infection and get better.
Various varieties of medical air flow can be utilized.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 80% of individuals with Covid-19 – the illness attributable to coronavirus – get better with no need hospital remedy.
But one particular person in six turns into critically sick and may develop respiratory difficulties.
In these extreme circumstances, the virus causes injury to the lungs. The physique’s immune system detects this and expands blood vessels so extra immune cells enter.
But this could trigger fluid to enter the lungs, making it more durable to breathe, and inflicting the physique’s oxygen ranges to drop.
To alleviate this, a machine ventilator is used to push air, with elevated ranges of oxygen, into the lungs.
The ventilator additionally has a humidifier, which modifies provides warmth and moisture to the medical air so it matches the affected person’s physique temperature.
Patients are given treatment to calm down the respiratory muscle tissues so their respiratory might be absolutely regulated by the machine.
People with milder signs could also be given air flow utilizing facemasks, nasal masks or mouthpieces which permit pressurised air or mixtures of gases to be pushed into the lungs.
Hoods, the place pressurised oxygen is pumped in by way of a valve, are additionally being generally used to deal with Covid-19 sufferers, partly as a result of they cut back the danger of airborne transmission of the virus from droplets within the breath.
These are referred to as “non-invasive” air flow, as no inside tubes are required.
However, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) would usually put sufferers struggling acute respiratory misery on mechanical air flow shortly, to make sure oxygen ranges within the physique keep regular.
Dr Shondipon Laha, from the Intensive Care Society, advised the BBC most sufferers with Covid-19 wouldn’t want a mechanical ventilator and may very well be handled at house or with supplementary oxygen.
But though there have been dangers when utilizing ventilators, corresponding to not understanding who would undergo long-term results, he stated, generally a ventilator was “the only way of getting oxygen into the patient”.
Another challenge, Dr Laha defined, was having sufficient of the suitable employees in place to handle all of the ventilators anticipated to be wanted.
“A ventilator is a complex beast – it can cause a patient trauma if not set up properly,” he stated. “The technical aspects are challenging. People have knowledge – we can use anaesthetists – but the knowledge base is different.
“They are used to getting ready comparatively wholesome individuals for theatre. ICU sufferers are way more fragile.”
How many ventilators does the UK have – and how many might we need?
The NHS is reported to have just 8,175 ventilators – and is urgently seeking to acquire more.
The government believes up to 30,000 could be needed at the peak of the pandemic – and has placed an order for 10,000 newly-designed machines from technology firm Dyson.
Dyson insiders have told the BBC they have a working prototype, designed and built from scratch, which has been tested on humans and is “able to go”.
A further order of 5,000 machines could come from Luton-based Smiths group, possibly its portable ParaPac model.
Another British firm, Gtech, has designed a prototype which might run completely off the hospital oxygen provide with out the necessity of an influence supply.
Various different firms – together with a consortium of Airbus, Meggit and GKN – are additionally lining as much as provide additional ventilators primarily based on current designs.
Meanwhile, a team of scientists and engineers from Oxford University and King’s College London has unveiled its own low-cost design, which it says may very well be shortly put into manufacturing.
And researchers at the University of East Anglia are looking at using 3D printing to shortly produce ventilator elements, in addition to masks and different important tools.