The acute shortage of mechanical ventilators to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients has led, in some countries, to healthcare workers in the IC units having to make decisions that make doing their job even more excruciatingly difficult.
Without enough ventilators to go around, who decides which patient deserves to be hooked up to one – and which not?
This has led hospitals around the world to look for medical equipment capable of delivering air with added oxygen to treat coronavirus patients whose lungs can no longer function independently. Different methods to apply positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) to the lungs of COVID 19 patients without the use of a ventilator are being explored.
Now Materialise, a Belgium-based pioneer in 3D printing, has developed a device designed to ease – at least somewhat – the strain on ventilator supplies. Its 3D-printed NIP Connector is designed to convert standard equipment available in most hospitals into a mask to facilitate breathing for patients by creating positive pressure in the lungs - without the use of a ventilator.
The system is easily assembled using standard medical equipment, including a non-invasive ventilation (NIV) mask, a filter and a PEEP valve, making it simple and familiar to use for medical professionals. The non-invasive positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) mask can be connected to the oxygen supply to facilitate breathing for coronavirus patients.
This solution gives patients an extended period of time before mechanical ventilators are required for treatment, and helps transition them off ventilators earlier, freeing up these devices for patients in critical need. Materialise is therefore upscaling its production capability to make the solution available broadly and quickly to hospitals that are looking for an emergency solution.
The Materialise NIP Connectors will be manufactured at the company’s ISO 13485 certified facilities in Belgium and Plymouth, Michigan and on-site 3D printing facilities of qualified partners. Materialise is looking for partners to get this solution to as many patients as possible.
Yet, as Brigitte De Vet, vice president of Materialise Medical points out, while 3D printing allows for the fast and local manufacturing of medical devices, making it possible to bring solutions to hospitals quickly, it is nonetheless, vital to comply with regulations to ensure the safety of patients and caregivers.
Materialise has decades of experience in certified medical 3D printing and is now fast-tracking the regulatory registrations that are crucial to ensure the safety of patients and caregivers. The company expects to have the device broadly available for hospitals by mid-April.