Considering there are only about 160,000 ventilators in U.S. hospitals, and there are already over 144,000 cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) as of press time, the country will soon feel the shortage of these life-saving devices as doctors make decisions about who gets a breathing machine and who doesn’t. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects the U.S. to have a ventilator shortage on the order of 300,000 to 700,000 units.
Now, volunteer engineers, physicians, and computer scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have a potential solution that should only cost about $400 to $500 in parts to produce. MIT plans to make these designs available online for free to help companies around the world shift to ventilator production.
Now, the new team is rapidly expanding that work to create a real-life ventilator solution. The design makes use of an unlikely hero: the Ambu resuscitation bags commonly found in hospitals. Emergency technicians or medical professionals hand-operate these bags to create airflow to the lungs until a ventilator becomes available. A tube is inserted into the person’s throat, while the trained professional squeezes and releases the flexible pouch.