King’s research shows one ventilator can be shared between two patients

T-splitters give both patients air

On Wednesday, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from King’s and Imperial announced it is possible for two patients to share one ventilator through the use of T-splitters, a device that allows the air supply to be shared.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, recently said there are between 9,000 and 10,000 ventilators now available to the NHS, but that the country will need up to 18,000 over the next couple of weeks.

As the number of people with Covid-19 peaks in the UK, there is likely to be high demand on intensive care beds, as well as “potential acute shortages of ventilators”.

The researchers demonstrated two patients could be ventilated at the same time, even if their lung problems differ in severity from each other, as the T-splitter allows each patient’s ventilation to be adjusted separately.

Dr Steven Williams, clinical lecturer at the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, said “our proposed modified splitter can help by allowing one particular ventilation parameter (tidal volume) to be adjusted”.

The research team, comprised of staff from King’s College London School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences and Imperial College London Department of Aeronautics and Department of Electrical Engineering, have found one possible solution to the ventilator shortage, while also providing a framework for other researchers to assess other solutions against.

The researchers note there are a number of problems with splitting ventilators, but given the scale of the pandemic, this is nonetheless being considered as a measure of “last resort” in a number of countries.

Dr Peter Vincent, Reader at the Department of Aeronautics explains at Imperial College London said the team were “now keen to get feedback from the international community and begin bench testing the approach as soon as possible.”

Their paper, submitted to Royal Society Open Science for peer review, is available online as a pre-print.

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