A breathing aid that can help keep Covid-19 patients out of intensive care has been approved for use in the NHS. The breathing aid, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), has been adapted by mechanical engineers at University College London (UCL), and clinicians at UCL Hospital, working with Northampton-based Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains.
Alongside this, Oxford Optronix, based at Milton Park near Oxford, has developed a bedside monitoring system that continuously measures the oxygen concentration being delivered to the patient. Crucially, the system has built in alarms to ensure that oxygen is delivered within set limits.
The CPAP has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to help Covid-19 patients with serious lung infections to breathe more easily, when oxygen alone is insufficient.
CPAP devices provide vital respiratory support by applying mild and continuous positive air (and oxygen) pressure to keep the airways open in patients who are able to breathe spontaneously; thereby helping them breathe and take up oxygen more easily. Crucially, CPAP is an alternative to mechanical ventilation in the majority of patients, thereby reducing demand for intensive care beds and allowing ventilators to be reserved for the most critically ill patients.
Commenting on the development, Dr Andy Obeid, chief executive of Oxford Optronix said: “On Saturday 21st March, I received an urgent call from Professor Mervyn Singer of UCL explaining to me the vital importance of CPAP in supporting COVID-19 patients with breathing difficulties, especially in those cases where conventional ventilation isn’t justified or potentially injurious to the patient.
“Minutes later, I was being quizzed on how to design, develop and manufacture a monitor to continuously measure the concentration of oxygen being delivered to the patient via CPAP. I soon realised that Mervyn was rather politely asking me to do something in five days that would normally take two years.
“Well, we did it. Working flat out and by mobilising the support of every individual in my company as well as other small companies across the U.K., I’m delighted to report that our team has been able to deliver our first batch of prototype oxygen monitors for patient trials commencing this week. Volume production will begin next week; in time for the expected peak of severe COVID-19 cases in the UK’