Specialists from the University of Twente (UT), Radboudumc and a company called FreeBreathing were able to demonstrate at UT’s TechMed centre that the VentilatorPAL Pro can be used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients with serious respiratory problems. The VentilatorPAL Pro is the professional version of the open-source ventilator VentilatorPAL. The system uses a ‘standard’ bag valve mask. In the past this equipment needed to be squeezed manually, but the new machine is able to take over the hand movements of the intensivist. The validation of the VentilatorPAL Pro signifies an important step in the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s condensed certification procedure. The machine is yet to be tested on patients.
Now that the curve is flattening in terms of need on Dutch intensive care wards, demand for the VentilatorPAL Pro is mainly coming from countries that are currently experiencing a high rate of COVID-19 hospital admissions. Countries in need include Brazil, Romania, Indonesia, India, the United States and various countries in Africa and South America. The VentilatorPAL Pro can be used during the first 4 to 5 days of a patient’s hospital stay. The average time spent in intensive care, 23 days, can be shortened in this way, which should in theory relieve 15-20% of the pressure on IC capacity.
The project’s technical expertise was provided by FreeBreathing’s engineers. Hugo Touw, intensivist at Radboudumc, advised on the basic requirements that ventilators must meet to be suitable for intensive care use. UT’s lung physiologist Frans de Jongh tested the VentilatorPAL Pro on artificial lungs at the TechMed Centre.
The VentilatorPAL was developed by the open source community without compromising on quality. A unit can be constructed quickly and easily by anyone with basic tools and technical skills and is easy to use. The version tested at the University of Twente is the professional Pro version. The VentilatorPAL Pro will be produced in cooperation with NTS Group in Eindhoven. The machine is a simple, affordable and effective ventilator designed to assist in the treatment of patients with breathing problems. The VentilatorPAL Pro is an affordable option for governments and medical professionals both in the developed and the developing world. The VentilatorPAL Pro sets itself apart from other initiatives around the globe due to the fact that mass production can begin as early as next week.
Marcel van Aarle of Stogger, the Limburg-based company marketing the VentilatorPAL Pro under the flag of FreeBreathing, is excited about the cooperation with Radboudumc and UT: “Once we have obtained certification from the Ministry, the first ten machines will be shipped to the above-mentioned countries who will then approve the machines through their own condensed certification procedures carried out by specialists. The substantiation provided by UT will prove particularly vital.”
The ventilator replaces the manual squeeze movement performed by staff and has two interfaces for easy use. The first is a physical interface on the VentilatorPAL, which allows medical professionals to determine four fundamental and crucial settings, namely Tidal Volume (TV), Inhale / Exhale ratio (I / E), Respiratory Rate (RR) and Positive End Expiratory Pressure (PEEP). The peak pressure is limited by a pressure relief valve that ensures the patient’s lungs are never subjected to excessively high pressure. The system also comes with an easy-to-use and intuitive smartphone app, which provides access to additional settings. This means that non-medical staff should be able to easily use the VentilatorPAL Pro.