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Karachi’s AKU launching trial of low-cost ventilators for ambulances

It’ll help patients get make lifesaving treatment before reaching hospital

SAMAA | - Posted: Dec 1, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
Editing & Writing | Usman Shahid
Posted: Dec 1, 2020 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
Karachi’s AKU launching trial of low-cost ventilators for ambulances

Photo: AFP

The Aga Khan University will launch a clinical trial of a portable, low-cost ventilator that aims to make lifesaving treatment such as assisted breathing available to patients before they reach the hospital.

This briefcase-sized, battery-operated ventilator is designed for use in an ambulance to reduce delays in receiving care. Currently, ventilators are only available in hospitals even though most patients with critical breathing problems need earlier access to breathing assistance.

“Too many precious lives are lost due to a lack of timely and effective ventilation,” said AKU’s Centre of Excellence for Trauma and Emergencies Director Dr Junaid Razzak. “This innovation aims to bridge the gap in care during transport to the hospital, which is often the period of highest risk for critically ill patients.”

Pakistan has a high burden of respiratory diseases, with pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease being two of the top ten leading causes of death, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. People with severe forms of pneumonia, COPD and COVID-19 are among those who require urgent access to ventilation.

“Every moment is vital when you’re struggling to breathe,” said AKU’s Technology Innovation Support Centre and Digital Health Resource Centre Director Saleem Sayan. “Most people with severe respiratory issues see their health deteriorate on their way to the hospital and they typically need more breathing assistance than a simple oxygen cylinder can provide.”   

Early tests show that the prototype ventilator can provide a regular supply of oxygen that can stabilise the health of a high-fidelity patient mannequin (realistic dummy) mimicking the symptoms of a patient with respiratory issues. Clinical trials aim to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the device among patients with chronic breathing problems in ambulances and emergency rooms. 

The device also has a mobile app that allows doctors at the hospital to manage the ventilator’s settings while the patients are in the ambulance to ensure that they reach the hospital in a stable condition. Hospital staff can also access real-time data about the patient’s health through the app.

This will enable more efficient triage, diagnosis and treatment for critically ill patients. The ventilator app also contains an artificial intelligence component that evaluates the patient’s data, assesses the risk to health and provides suggestions on the next steps to be taken by the ambulance paramedic. 

According to the World Health Organization, one-third of all patients in low- and middle-income countries require care such as assisted ventilation before reaching the hospital.

Besides breathing problems, individuals with head injuries, drug overdoses and heart conditions can also benefit from ventilators in ambulances.

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