Covid-19 Ventilator Shortage - CPAPs to the Rescue?
But CPAP machines, already in wide use for people who snore, might be used as a temporary stopgap for those whose ventilator needs are not as severe and as complicated, suggests professor John Banzhaf, an MIT-educated engineer and inventor with several patents.
Banzhaf also says that a simple 20-second handwashing timer, mounted next to sinks, could also save many lives, since most people do not wash their hands long enough to effectively stop the spread of both the corona and flue viruses.
To deal with this life-threatening shortage of ventilators, Gupta suggested bringing old ventilators out of storage and trying to make them operable again, but this may not be sufficient if demands for life-saving breathing assistance continues to dramatically expand.
Also, trying to suddenly expand manufacturing capacity for these hospital machines also may not work, because they are both difficult and very expensive to construct.
So Banzhaf suggests the possibility of using existing CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines, now already in very widespread use in homes to combat sleep apnea, as devices to help persons with respiratory problems due to the coronavirus, especially in less serious cases which do not require the full power and sophistication of expensive hospital-type ventilator machines.
First, the number of existing CPAP machines greatly exceeds the number of hospital ventilation machines, and, because they are simpler and less expensive, manufacturing capability can be increased far more quickly, very easily, and at much lower cost.
Second, CPAP machines, especially those with full-face masks, can provide a very significant increase in the amount of air (and therefore oxygen) a user can consume, and many can easily be adjusted to provide even higher air pressures than would ordinarily be required to overcome mild sleep apnea.
Third, those most at risk of respiratory problems from the coronavirus virus - i.e., those who are elderly and/or have other medical problems - are also the population most like to already have and use CPAP machines.
So they and their family members are therefore familiar with and comfortable with them.
Therefore, in an emergency, these existing users could be asked to bring their units to the hospital where they might be used in all but the most serious respiratory distress situations requiring a sophisticated hospital ventilator machine.