Case Studies

Due to a shortage of ventilators, groups have begun to modify available breathing machines, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to treat Covid-19 patients. CPAP machines, used to treat sleep apnea, are relatively plentiful. Their conversion provides real-world examples of how individuals, private groups, hospital administrators, public health officials are pitching in to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

PPE shortage has led to additional innovation including the use of vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize N95 masks and other PPEs.

convert a CPAP machine to a ventilator

Robertson Ventilators

UMMC pediatric anesthesiologist Dr. Charles Robertson

As states across the country beg for ventilators to help patients suffering with respiratory issues from COVID-19, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is building its own makeshift ventilators with supplies found at a hardware store.

Dr. Charles Robertson, a UMMC pediatric anesthesiologist and the mastermind behind the idea, said he set out to make the “absolute simplest ventilator we can build with parts available in any city, you don’t need special tools to put together and can be done quickly as the need arises.”

Made with “primarily a garden hose, a lamp timer and electronic valve,” the ventilator, named the Robertson Ventilator, for less than $100, can be assembled in approximately 20 to 30 minutes, meaning a dedicated team of four to five could produce nearly 100 in a day if needed, he said.

While in-demand ventilators may go to states that are the highest bidder, Robertson noted the parts he gathered are from Home Depot and Lowe’s.

As of Tuesday, UMMC staff had assembled 170 of the ventilators, Robertson said, doubling the hospital’s capacity. They have parts to make 75 more.

Given the supplies involved and their wide availability, UMMC has “the ability to quickly manufacture any more if we need them,” he said.

Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research for UMMC, addressed the shortage of conventional ventilators, saying, “as a contingency plan, we were looking for our state to be independent.”

The Robertson Ventilators have been tested and proven to be successful on both laboratory animals at UMMC and in simulation, Summers said, and “performed well, even in conditions that we would expect with COVID lung.”

The hospital has applied for an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the Robertson Ventilators, in the event the conventional ventilators are already in use.