Mar 26, 2020 - Health

New Prisma Health device expands ventilator support to four patients

 Hospital doctors are instructed to handle a ventilator

Hospital doctors being instructed to handle a ventilator. Photo: Axel Heimken/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Prisma Health, the largest nonprofit health group in South Carolina, announced Wednesday that it's developed a device that will enable one ventilator to support up to four patients being treated for the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: Ventilators are critical in helping patients in the most severe cases of COVID-19 to breathe. But they're in short supply as demand grows, with the number of coronavirus cases increasing as U.S. testing capacity expands. The virus had killed more than 1,000 people and infected 69,000 others in the U.S. by late Wednesday.

Details: The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for the Prisma Health 3D-printed device, called the VESper, which the firm said in a statement was developed with "material already in use for medical devices and produced at minimal cost."

What they're saying: Peter Tilkemeier, chair of medicine at Prisma Health-Upstate, said rapid rises in patients requiring machine-assisted breathing can cause an "acute shortage" of necessary equipment overnight.

  • The VESper "can be lifesaving when the number of critically ill patients requiring breathing support is greater than the number of available ventilators," he added. "A number of U.S. hospitals are likely to begin experiencing this with COVID-19."

Go deeper: American manufacturing vs. the coronavirus

Editor’s note: The headline has been corrected to reflect that Prisma Health created a ventilator expansion device (not a new ventilator).

Go deeper