Scientists from Costa Rica carried out this Wednesday the test on a pig of a prototype of a portable mechanical ventilator that so far has given positive results and that after a series of validations and protocols could be used in patients with coronavirus.
The pandemic has forced countries to search for a variety of medical devices to care for those affected by the virus. Faced with this competition and the fight for supply and demand, Costa Rica works to create its own mechanical fans.
“From all the cannibalism worldwide for this type of device, for Costa Rica it is really satisfactory to know that the country has the human and technical capacity to build this type of instrument and guarantee health security in this regard. So far, all the results both in simulators and in live animals have been positive and have behaved satisfactorily, ”one of the promoters of this initiative, the physicist Ralph García, told Efe.
The project, called Respira UCR, is in charge of a team of specialists from the state University of Costa Rica (UCR), as well as experts from the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), who validate every detail, also with the support of veterinary doctors from the Intensivet clinic.
The portable mechanical ventilator has flow sensors and pressure alarms, automatically detects the respiratory rate, supports regulating the volume of air and the respiratory cycle, and even allows the valves to be adapted, in order to meet the requirements that demands a device like this.
The authorities have carried out preclinical tests with robotic models at the Health Simulation Center, in vitro validations and now tests on live animals such as pigs to verify that the volume of air supplied through the ventilator is correct.
The pig would be monitored for 72 hours to assess the resistance capacity of the respirator and then a human test will be carried out.
“A prototype has been achieved, tests are initially in vitro to see how the mechanical fan reacts. Now we are testing live biological models and then we have to adapt some validation protocols so that the device, once the protocol has been complied with, we can say it is safe to use in humans, “explained intensivist doctor Jorge Espitaleta, coordinator of the Care Center for patients with COVID-19.
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Espitaleta added that “in the event of a massive emergency, as has happened in other parts of the world”, it is urgent for doctors to have mechanisms to connect a patient to mechanical ventilation.
“These efforts are very important because we have a finite and limited number of fans, we have to be prepared,” he said.
In this phase, the trial was performed with pigs, since these animals have a lung capacity similar to that of humans, and the information obtained will serve to study the possible application of the device in patients with COVID-19.
“The pig allows us, due to its similarity to the respiratory system, to transpolate this information to human patients. The pig does not suffer from physical involvement since it is anesthetized. We are monitoring the parameters of blood pressure, oxygenation and carbon dioxide to see that the patient is in normal physiological parameters, we are not doing any surgical procedure or causing pain, “said veterinary doctor Andrés Rodríguez.
The Costa Rican Chamber of Pig Farmers collaborated with the donation of the two pigs, weighing approximately 176 pounds, who were brought to the capital, San José, from the country’s northern border, to support research and innovation processes.
The specialists also work on the validation regarding the capacity of the fan to respond when there is resistance to the passage of air. This is done to simulate a patient with pulmonary fibrosis.