Coronavirus: Using One Ventilator To Ventilate Up To Four Patients

It’s unusual for me to post on a Saturday, but we are currently living in unusual times. This tidbit caught my attention and I wanted to get this interesting idea out there for all to think about.

Hopefully, it will never come to this. But there are reports from both Italy and New York City that ventilators are in short supply. This video illustrates the technique used in some research that was actually published way back in 2006. It demonstrated the efficacy of using one ventilator on four patients at once.  It requires just a few connectors that are readily available.

But remember, this is off-label use and is not condoned by the FDA! And it probably violates every Department of Health and hospital policy written. But in a pinch, it is something to think about.

Obviously, there are lots of possible downsides. Four patients are essentially sharing one circuit. Even though the circuits are one-way, there is always an infectious cross-contamination risk. The paper shows that ventilation should be adequate on both pressure and volume control settings.

This type of thing is a very last resort, and hopefully no one will have to use it!

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Reference: A single ventilator for multiple simulated patients to meet disaster surge. Acad Emerg Med 13(11):1246-9, 2006.

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