A not-for-profit health organization based in South Carolina announced Wednesday that it had invented a device that allows for one ventilator to be used to treat up to four coronavirus patients.
The organization, Prisma Health, said the device, called a VESper, or ventilation expansion splitter, has received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is made using 3D print technology and can be produced at minimal cost using material already in use for medical devices.
The invention comes as a shortage of ventilators — which are used to treat people suffering from respiratory infection — has been reported by health officials around the world during the recent coronavirus pandemic.
Prisma said it plans to share the technology with hospitals across the United States and around the world, like in Italy, where the disease has ravaged the country and is overwhelming the health care system.
"We believe the device can be life-saving," said Peter Tilkemeier, chair of the Department of Medicine at Prisma Health-Upstate.
According to the Greenville News, the device was the brainchild of Dr. Sarah Farris, an emergency physician who is also a faculty member at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.
After coming up with the idea, Farris worked collaboratively with her husband, who is a software engineer, and a pulmonologist to develop it.
"Immediately, we realized we had an opportunity to impact patient outcomes all over the country, and potentially beyond the U.S.," said Marjorie Jenkins, M.D., chief academic officer for Prisma Health, in a statement. "What we needed was a collaborative team to put the plan in motion and close the loop between design, production, FDA approval and distribution to hospitals with critical need."
Any hospital can download the source code and printing specifications for the device after registering online at www.prismahealth.org/VESper. The health organization is now working with other companies to scale production for distribution to COVID-19 "hot spots," or areas of need, as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.