Innovative medical device created by S.C. medical group to help with ventilator shortages

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 8:14 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Prisma Health announced an innovation by its team that will help hospitals across the country that are strapped for medical equipment during the coronavirus outbreak.

The VESper device is a "Y" splitter that attaches to a ventilator and increases each machine’s ability to treat patients.

With the device, ventilators can now be used to treat four patients at a time.

The FDA gave VESper emergency use authorization, which means it can be used immediately to help treat patients where there is a critical shortage of ventilators.

Field tests are underway nationwide to ensure the device works as designed, per FDA guidelines.

The device is manufactured with 3-D printing technology, and Prisma says it can be produced at minimal cost.

It was a Prisma Health emergency medicine physician who had the idea, after realizing one ventilator could be used to breathe for multiple patients.

The doctor and her husband, who is a software engineer, as well as a Prisma Health pulmonary critical care physician, began developing the "Y" splitter.

The team designed the device to “meet international quality standards (ISO), be easily produced, allow for appropriate filtering of bacteria and viruses in the ventilator tubing, be strong and impact-resistant, and not impact the care of other patients connected to the same machine.”

Engineers at Clemson University and University of South Carolina used 3-D printing to produce prototypes of the device.

“This is an exemplary demonstration of rapid innovation and collaboration,” Mark O’Halla, president and CEO of Prisma Health, said. “I am so proud of the creativity and perseverance of our clinical team who came together to develop a potentially life-saving solution at a critical time for our country, our communities and our patients. We are anxiously awaiting the results of the prototype field tests."

Hospitals across the country can apply to receive the free source code and printing specifications for the device by registering on Prisma Health’s website. Priority will go to areas of the country where hospitals are near or have exceeded their ventilator capacity to treat patients.

Prisma Health officials says hospitals in South Carolina currently have plenty of ventilators.

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