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April 08, 2020 Wednesday 03:55:39 PM IST

Covid-19: Leeds University Modifies Sleep Apnoea Machine into Ventilator

Technology Inceptions

The University of Leeds has modified the sleep apnoea machine at its disposal to make ventilators for treating Covid-19 patients in UK. Sleep apnoea is a condition where people stop breathing in their sleep – the machine ensures their air supply is maintained.  The device had to be reconfigured for the oxygen supply to directly flow to the face mask worn by the patient. The machine operates in a mode called CPAP: constant positive airway pressure.  That means the pressure inside the mask is slightly raised, keeping the patient’s airway open and making it easier for them to breathe.  It provides enriched oxygen of between 40 to 60%.
Because it is a modification to a device, it does not have to go through a full regulatory approval process. The innovation was possible thanks to the joint efforts of University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT).Professor Nikil Kapur, from the School of Mechanical Engineering at Leeds and who led the University team, said:  "The collaboration showed how the University was able to support colleagues at LTHT who had brilliant ideas but insufficient time to investigate them because they were having to prepare their hospitals to deal with the unfolding pandemic.” 
Working on a suggestion that initially came from the medical physics department at LTHT, the University team – in four days – came up with a ventilator based on a conversion of a NIPPY 3+ device. That working model had both air and oxygen being fed into the device and then on to the patient. 
It was evaluated at LTHT last week, but the medical physics team wanted to reconfigure it further, to achieve more efficient use of hospital oxygen supplies. The clinical team, with the engineers, decided that the patient’s mask would receive air from the device and oxygen directly from the hospital’s supply system.  
Also, there was evidence from China that many seriously ill patients did not need full ventilation, which requires sedation, but an intermediate level of support which could be provided by a CPAP device.