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08 April 2020

Researchers identify method of ventilating two patients simultaneously

The new research demonstrated how T-splitters can ventilate two patients simultaneously


Amid the potential acute shortages of ventilators at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have shown in a new simulation study the potential for ventilators to be manipulated to ventilate two patients independently.

In their paper, in Royal Society Open Science a multidisciplinary team from King’s College London School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences and Imperial College London Department of Aeronautics and Department of Electrical Engineering, have simulated the use of T-splitters, devices which split ventilator air supply to two patients simultaneously.

In one ventilator setup they show that it could be possible to ventilate two patients with differing severity of lung problems at the same time and that ventilator requirements of one patient could be manipulated independently of the other.

Dr Steven Williams, clinical lecturer at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, said this paper evaluated one possible approach to ventilator sharing and that the research provides a simulation model that could be used by other researchers to evaluate other potential solutions.

“We show that our proposed modified splitter can help by allowing one particular ventilation parameter (tidal volume) to be adjusted,” he said.

The results indicate that, with appropriate modifications, two patients could be supported from a single ventilator with independent control of tidal volumes.

The team point out that there are a range of significant issues associated with ventilator splitting. However, given the extreme circumstances it is now being seriously considered as a ‘last resort’ solution in several countries.

Dr Peter Vincent, Reader at the Department of Aeronautics explains at Imperial College London said: “this work uses a theoretical model to suggest how one of the issues, namely individualised air volume control, may be addressed.”

“Our team is now keen to get feedback from the international community and begin bench testing the approach as soon as possible.”

Dr Williams said: “Time is of paramount importance in responding to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak,” “We are therefore committed to completing this project as quickly as possible.”

This work was supported by the King’s Together Multi and Interdisciplinary Research Scheme {Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund} and the Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Medical Engineering [WT 203148/Z/16/Z]’