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3D-Printed Connectors Could Alleviate Ventilator Shortage

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 20 Apr 2020
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Image: The Materialise NIP Connector facilitates respiratory care (Photo courtesy of Materialise)
Image: The Materialise NIP Connector facilitates respiratory care (Photo courtesy of Materialise)
A three dimensional (3D)-printed solution provides adjustable positive end expiratory pressure (PEEP) oxygen delivery without the use of a ventilator.

The Materialise (Leuven, Belgium) NIP Connector is a 3D-printed section that holds together three standard medical devices, namely a non-invasive mask, a filter, and a PEEP valve. Once assembled, oxygen is delivered to the patient mask through a one-way inhalation valve, which can also be supplemented with ambient air. The filter is used to minimize aerial viral contamination, and the adjustable PEEP valve providing the positive pressure needed to introduce the oxygen into the patient’s lungs.

“The aim is to avoid invasive treatments. This new solution is giving positive pressure and oxygen, so it is not a big burden on the patient. You can avoid more invasive treatments and save on ventilator capacity which you can use on other patients,” said Professor Wilfried De Backer, MD, director of the functional respiratory imaging company FLUIDDA (Kontich, Belgium), with whom Materialise partnered on the development. “If we can give positive pressure, and we keep the situation stable, the patient stable, we can avoid more invasive steps.”

“In most clinical settings today, physicians would switch from a pure oxygen mask to a ventilator. The question is when do we start with the mask? I think it is when the patient is getting worse and there is a higher need for oxygen,” concluded Professor De Backer. “This is the ideal time to switch from a pure oxygen mask to a mask that is also delivering this positive pressure in the airways, pushing back the fluids in the lung and allowing for a better uptake of oxygen. Because the mask fits well, meaning without a leak, and there is a filter added to the solution, there is not as much of a risk in spreading the virus in the environment.”

Because the solution uses 3D printing, it can be manufactured locally and can therefore be brought to hospitals quickly. This could become even more crucial as travel and transport become more difficult. The NIP Connector can be printed at any Materialise-certified facility, or at a hospital that can do so in a reliable manner. The smaller production series sizes enabled by 3D printing can also allow designs to be customized to fit all types of NIV masks.

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