Critical evaluation of emergency stockpile ventilators in an in vitro model of pediatric lung injury

Jason W Custer, Christopher M Watson, Joe Dwyer, David W Kaczka, Brett A Simon, R Blaine Easley
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 2011, 12 (6): e357-61

OBJECTIVE: Modern health care systems may be inadequately prepared for mass casualty respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation. Current health policy has focused on the "stockpiling" of emergency ventilators, though little is known about the performance of these ventilators under conditions of respiratory failure in adults and children. In this study, we seek to compare emergency ventilator performance characteristics using a test lung simulating pediatric lung injury.

DESIGN: Evaluation of ventilator performance using a test lung.

SETTING: Laboratory.


MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Six transport/emergency ventilators capable of adult/child application were chosen on the basis of manufacturer specifications, Autovent 3000, Eagle Univent 754, EPV 100, LP-10, LTV 1200, and Parapac 200D. Manufacturer specifications for each ventilator were reviewed and compared with known standards for alarms and functionality for surge capacity ventilators. The delivered tidal volume, gas flow characteristics, and airway pressure waveforms were evaluated in vitro using a mechanical test lung to model pediatric lung injury and integrated software. Test lung and flow meter recordings were analyzed over a range of ventilator settings. Of the six ventilators assessed, only two had the minimum recommended alarm capability. Four of the six ventilators tested were capable of being set to deliver a tidal volume of less than 200 mL. The delivered tidal volume for all ventilators was within 8% of the nominal setting at a positive end expiratory pressure of zero but was reduced significantly with the addition of positive end expiratory pressure (range, ±10% to 30%; p < .01). All ventilators tested performed comparably at higher set tidal volumes; however, only three of the ventilators tested delivered a tidal volume across the range of ventilator settings that was comparable to that of a standard intensive care unit ventilator.

CONCLUSIONS: Multiple ventilators are available for the provision of ventilation to children with respiratory failure in a mass casualty scenario. Few of these ventilators possess the minimum alarm functionality and consistently deliver the prescribed tidal volume that allows for safe and effective ventilation of critically ill pediatric patients. These findings will help clinicians understand the performance and limitations of available ventilators intended for use in children.

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