Better, cost-effective respirators studied

Sept. 12, 2007 at 9:36 AM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists said the human body's ability to adapt to recurring stimuli might be used to design more effective, inexpensive artificial respirators.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers said such an approach could minimize the need for induced sedation or paralysis currently necessary for some patients to use mechanical ventilation.

Existing respirators don't consider the adaptive nature of breathing in their design; some ignore a patient's natural rhythm and pump air in and out of the lungs on set intervals. As a result, physicians often must sedate or paralyze patients to prevent them from fighting an unfamiliar rhythm. Other respirators that are designed to rely on the patient to trigger the airflow are costly and tend to be unreliable for weak patients, such as newborns or those in critical care.

The MIT research suggested, however, that if a doctor takes the patient's natural breathing rhythm into account and sets the ventilator's rhythm in that same range, the patient will adapt and synchronize with the ventilator.

The study by Chi-Sang Poon and Gang Song of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and Shawna MacDonald of MIT's mechanical engineering department appears in the online journal PLoS One.

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