As a critical shortage of ventilators looms, New York Governor Andre Cuomo revealed on Friday that the state will begin to reallocate BiPAP machines to support critically ill coronavirus patients.
Last week, the state resorted to the conversion of anesthesia machines to supplement its inventory of about 6,500 ventilators.
Cuomo said on Thursday that he was not sure if BiPAP machines could or would be used as fans, but on Friday, the state included them in the list of alternatives he was looking for.
WHAT IS A BIPAP MACHINE?
BiPAP is the acronym for positive pressure at two levels. These devices and CPAP devices are used to treat patients with sleep apnea.
People with sleep apnea can stop breathing while they sleep for a number of reasons, and the device makes sure they continue to breathe normally.
One of the machine’s positive pressure airways helps push air into the lungs while a second is set to a lower pressure, which facilitates the patient’s normal breathing.
The alternation of these two components is set to match the patient’s normal pattern of inspiration and expiration, which makes them more comfortable and similar to natural breathing when used.
The pressure is delivered through a tube connected to a facial mask which is worn at night.
HOW IS A BIPAP MACHINE DIFFERENT FROM A FAN?
Respirators are generally reserved for the sickest patients who cannot breathe on their own at all, as opposed to patients with sleep apnea, whose breathing is suddenly interrupted periodically, but whose lungs are generally functional.
The so-called mechanical ventilation is both more invasive and more powerful than a BiPap.
Patients on respirators are intubated, which means that a tube is threaded through the mouth and airways and that the machine creates the contraction and expansion action that their lungs are no longer able to do on their own.
They can however be used in a less invasive way, with a mask as the patients on the BiPAP machines use.
HOW CAN A BIPAP MACHINE BE USED AS A FAN?
Both machines greatly assist the lungs when they have trouble functioning.
On the one hand, the parameters need to be adjusted not only to increase the patient’s inhalations and exhalations, but to do the job for them.
To convert BiPAPs, which are typically used with masks, to be used on intubated patients, scientists at Northwell Health in New York City 3D printed a T-shaped adapter.
Their method has been successfully tested on dozens of patients.
At the University of California, Berkeley, the team has reconfigured a BiPAP machine so that it can absorb oxygen from a tank, rather than just drawing from the air around it.
Endotracheal tubes that descend along the trachea were then attached in addition to a dual filter system to ensure that pathogens like the coronavirus did not enter or exit.
Already, the FDA has paved the way for the use of sleep apnea treatment devices like these, a use previously unapproved for similar BiPAP or CPAP devices.