Mass. students create portable ventilator

A team of students from MIT has made a new low-cost ventilator for patients in developing areas that lack such equipment or for use in emergency situations such as pandemics or natural disasters when hospital resources may be overextended. 

While the system uses the same widely-available manual pump, it also encases the pump in a plastic box with a battery, motor and controls to take the place of the manual compression process.

There is a substantial need for such devices in many developing nations, especially in rural areas that have no access to existing ventilator technology. Dr. Jussi Saukkonen of Boston University Medical Center, who originally proposed the concept of the low-cost ventilator and worked with the MIT team, says "it's likely there would be millions of cases worldwide" that could benefit from such a device, according to an MIT statement.

The kind of ventilators used in modern hospitals can cost up to $30,000, but the newly developed device can be produced for about $100, says Abdul Mohsen Al Husseini, one of the students who developed the system. While there are some situations where it can't perform all the same functions as the more expensive versions, for 98 percent of cases, this simple inexpensive device could do the job, he says.

Furthermore, a U.S. government study in 2005 found that in a worst-case pandemic scenario, this country alone might need more than 700,000 mechanical ventilators, while only 100,000 are now in use.

- read the MIT statement