Medical ventilators are highly sophisticated ventilation systems intended to assist patients that are physically unable to breathe on their own by moving breathable air into and out of the lungs.
Image Credit: Superior Sensor Technology
There are various types of medical ventilators designed for different situations.
Transport ventilators are commonly used by first responders, helicopter transport and ambulances. In emergencies, these are the first types of electronic ventilators a patient will use prior to a handoff at a hospital.
These units are compact and more robust than hospital ventilators and have several power source options.
Intensive care (ICU) ventilators
ICU Ventilators are large units typically used in hospitals and run on AC power. These units are commonly used in the surgical and ICU wards of a hospital and have the most extensive feature set and highest capabilities.
Critical care ventilators
Critical Care Ventilators may not possess the same capabilities as an ICU ventilator, but they are still rich in features and ready to handle emergencies as well as critical, long-term ventilation situations.
These ventilators are generally found in the Emergency Department and other specialized care units of a hospital.
Home Ventilators are again more compact units for patients who cannot breathe unaided when discharged from the hospital. If a patient still requires ventilation after the hospital stay, the home ventilator can be utilized to continue the process until the patient can eventually breathe independently.
As well as adult ventilators, there are also neonatal ventilators. Neonatal ventilators are a special category of medical ventilators that are aimed at treating neonatal and infant patients by supplying lower, more precise delivery rates for ventilation.
Current medical ventilation systems are controlled electronically through integrated processing to closely manage air pressure and flow characteristics to meet individual patient requirements.
These systems are categorized as ‘life critical’ as any failure in the system may have dire consequences for the patient. Even prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, medical ventilators were deemed essential equipment in hospital care.
Recently, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for ventilators has escalated significantly. While hospitals continue to make use of tank-based high-pressure ventilators built into the wall, low-pressure movable units with either a small oxygen tank or no tank at all are becoming a popular choice.
As these ventilators are portable, they make it easy to transport the units ‘with the patient’ or to relocate them easily to where the need is greatest. However, in place of full-size tanks, these systems utilize a blower to circulate air on demand.
Like a fan, the blower is comprised of blades, and the blade noise is an additional problematic concern that needs to be considered to ensure precise operation.
Figure 1. Examples of Low-Pressure Medical Ventilators. Image Credit: Superior Sensor Technology
There are many medical ventilator manufacturers spread across the globe, with some of the largest vendors being GE, Hamilton Medical, Drager, Philips, Vyaire, Getinge and Medtronic.
Before the start of the pandemic, industry sales were roughly 200,000 per year. Since the start of 2020, the industry has seen a jump in sales due to the astonishing increase in demand. A number of companies develop both adult and neonate products, but others specialize in just one of the two categories.
Superior's sensors improve both accuracy and reliability
As it is generally a real matter of life and death, medical ventilators are designed carefully to make sure single points of failure do not bring harm to a patient. Ventilators have multiple monitoring mechanisms that keep checking on these potential failures. When something no longer works as it should, an alarm is automatically generated.
For instance, to make sure patients are receiving the correct delivery prescription, pressure sensors track airflow and can sound an alarm if the airflow is beyond the acceptable range. Thus, being able to fully depend on these sensors is vital for patient care.
Increased system reliability can be acquired by identifying and replacing sensors before failure occurs, which has been shown to lower system alarm rates, thus saving lives.
Superior Sensor Technology has designed an array of sensors for ventilators that enhance accuracy and reliability while building in new features to reduce overall system costs.
One of the main issues that impact medical ventilator performance is the noise generated by air blowers, other mechanical components and electrical signals. Using the NimbleSenseTM architecture’s integrated advanced digital filtering technology, Superior’s pressure sensors cancel out the noise these elements create before they reach the sensor sub-system.
Thus, the noise is canceled out before it becomes an error signal that may give rise to flawed deliveries in air pressure either going into or out of the lungs. Moreover, NimbleSense architecture’s integrated closed loop control can be used to enhance ventilator design and performance.
This extra ability makes sure that air flow rates remain accurate by directly controlling motors, valves and actuators. This built-in feature can streamline product design, lessen system overhead and offer modest improvements in overall accuracy. By introducing the loop control directly in the sensor, the sub-system also helps lessen CPU load.
With the demand for ventilators reaching such high levels, it is crucial that they continue to work without interruption. Anticipating and preventing failures before they become system alarms is crucial. Superior Sensor’s proprietary Self AwareTM technology ensures maximum uptime and overall reliability.
Self Aware sensor technology monitors any changes in error levels. By being part of a redundant system, the technology both eradicates a single point of failure service interruption and lowers the number of false positives with respect to error notifications. Pressure sensor-related alarm rates can be reduced by up to 1000x with Self Aware technology.
Reduction in system costs
By using a System-in-a-Sensor approach where the sensor module incorporates several functions, Superior Sensor Technology streamlines product design and helps reduce system costs.
For instance, Superior’s Multi-RangeTM technology means just one sensor is needed rather than several different sensors in a single design. This streamlines product design, allows manufacturers to rapidly bring product variants to market, reduces inventory costs, and prevents product obsolescence since only one sensor model needs to be stocked.
Superior’s integrated closed loop control and advanced digital filtering also deliver additional cost savings. With these capabilities embedded in the sensor module, the need to externally design these functions with discrete components is eliminated. This lowers BOM cost, improves reliability and expedites time to market.
Finally, Superior’s proprietary Self Aware technology can reduce ventilator service interruptions significantly as well as limit false alarms that necessitate healthcare worker intervention.
Superior’s pressure sensors can lessen the need for service calls and considerably reduce the number of times the shipment of replacement parts needs to be accelerated or send service personnel on site.
Medical ventilators are highly sophisticated pieces of equipment that are critical for patient care. Accuracy is a vital component to make sure patients receive the best care possible, as any deviations can have dire consequences. Just as important, medical ventilators must be reliable and continually strive to eradicate any single points of failure.
Figure 2. NimbleSense Building Blocks for Medical Ventilators. Image Credit: Superior Sensor Technology
The NimbleSense architecture has essential building blocks that are specifically tailored for ventilator applications:
- Closed Loop Control
- Advanced Digital Filtering
- Self Aware
Leading ventilator manufacturers around the world, such as Vyaire, have placed trust in Superior Sensor Technology for their differential pressure sensors needs.
For additional information about ventilator solutions or to learn how you can improve the performance and reliability of ventilator products, contact Superior Sensors today.
About Superior Sensor Technology
Superior Sensor Technology is an innovative, high technology company revolutionizing the high performance, cost driven pressure sensor market by developing integrative, highly intelligent solutions for industrial, HVAC and medical applications.
Our proprietary pressure sensor technology with advanced programmable software features enables customers to develop higher performing, more reliable equipment.
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