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CEDENNA engineers and USACH doctors develop specialized mechanical ventilator for patients with Covid-19

June 15, 2020

The device -called VM Resilience- was developing for weeks between both teams, successfully passing tests. Its design allows it to be programmed to control flow, pressure and respiratory rate, guaranteeing its operation without interruptions.

Santiago, June 2020.- After intense weeks of work, the team made up of engineers from the Center for the Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (Cedenna), and doctors from the Postgraduate and Postgraduate Department of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the Universidad de Santiago (Usach), managed to develop a mechanical ventilator that meets the specific needs of patients affected by Covid-19.

The device called VM Resilience has already successfully passed various tests, was presented to the advisers of the Ministry of Health and is connected to the network of the Félix Bulnes Hospital.

VM Resiliencia responds to the specific needs for patients affected by Covid19 who require controlled mechanical assisted ventilation through patient intubation. It was also designed so that medical teams can control it using a touch screen.

The project started in April when news of the pandemic in countries like Spain and Italy alerted researchers to the need for fans for possible over-demand due to the number of sick people. Dora Altbir, director of the Cedenna research center (housed in the Usach) contacted the engineers Omar Daud and Álvaro Espejo, who are leading this initiative to develop a fan made in Chile that could be available for the difficult days that could come . The engineers sought the advice of doctors Pedro Chaná and Gabriel de la Fuente, from the Directorate of Postgraduate Medical Sciences of the same house of studies, who have vast experience in treating critically ill patients and began the design and manufacture of the device .

Dora Altbir, director of Cedenna, points out that “this collaboration was tremendously important, since from the beginning we were able to approach the construction of this fan from the point of view of physics, engineering, but above all, of medicine. Without that support and expert eyes, it would not have been possible to develop a fan with all the necessary features. ”

Development lasted for several weeks until the device could be programmed to control three fundamental variables for the treatment of patients with Covid-19: air flow, pressure and respiratory rate.

“We studied some designs and from them we worked on one with the characteristics we needed, also considering that the materials were available at this time, always in line with the medical requirements,” explains Omar Daud, an engineer at Cedenna and PhD in mechatronics.

The VM Resilience device was built to run uninterrupted, with no intervention for parts change or maintenance. This is very important in the treatment of patients with Covid19, since the accumulated international experience indicates that in some cases patients can stay up to three weeks connected to the ventilator.

Dr. Gabriel de la Fuente, doctor and academic from the Postgraduate and Postgraduate Directorate of the Usach School of Medical Sciences, comments that “the VM Resilience project is an important technological leap for the health of our country. It uses a computerized valve system and allows the same digital control as commercial equipment. It has advantages and is more reliable than the Ambu type manual respirator bag based system. ”

The development of VM Resilience is the result of strong collaborative work by the Cedenna group of engineers made up of Matías Targarona, Carlos Eugenio, Sebastián Sepúlveda, Milenko Espinosa, Fabian Araneda, Omar Daud and Álvaro Espejo, supported by Dora Altbir and the collaboration of Frank and Héctor Miranda. The group worked in the Magnetism Laboratory of the Department of Physics of the Usach, with the permanent advice of doctors Pedro Chaná and Gabriel de la Fuente, from the Directorate of Postgraduate Medical Sciences of the Usach.

“The ventilator was thought from the beginning to meet the more complex technological ventilation needs that COVID-19 patients require. It was necessary to form a multidisciplinary team to comply with the development of software and hardware that a project of this magnitude requires. Fortunately, thanks to the gigantic effort of the entire team, a prototype was created with the pressure-regulated volume control ventilation mode, PRVC, allowing the ventilator to automatically adapt to changes in the stiffness of patients’ lungs, decreasing thus the possibilities of generating barotraumas ”, indicates Álvaro Espejo, PhD and researcher at Cedenna.
In late May, the mechanical ventilator VM Resiliencia was presented to the Minsal advisory team. The ventilator has been working successfully and Cedenna engineers are already working to manufacture three more ventilators and make them available to the health service.

TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DEVICE

The VM Resilience device is mainly based on three fundamental aspects: the intake of air and oxygen available in the hospital network; a system of valves, flow and pressure sensors, and electronics / software used to control, in pressure and flow, the delivery of air to the patient.

Its main advantages are:
• Can be mass-produced
• Parts can be sourced from multiple manufacturers, helping to avoid shortages in the supply chain.
• Does not use specific medical components of the supply chain; It does not use balloons or moving elements that make control very difficult, such as ambu.
• Employs fluid mechanics design principles to minimize dependency on specific components.
• Its operation guarantees its use permanently over time.
• The treating physician can modify all the breathing parameters, through a user interface implemented on a touch screen.

Ventilation modes of the VM Resilience:
• Pressure-regulated volume control mode (PRVC typology), which is an evolution to the classic volume-only control ventilation mode.
• Spontaneous breathing mode with support pressure.

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