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The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way we lead our lives, and it’s clear that some parts of our lives have been affected more than others. One of the areas affected significantly is healthcare. Resources are stretched very thin; hospitals have struggled to keep up with new infections as persons with severe cases of the disease create a huge demand for ventilators. We’ve seen companies like Dyson, Ford, and GM switch out their normal operations to ensure an adequate supply of medical ventilators.
And though the disease remains without a cure, it’s become apparent that there is a need for adequate medical machinery for prolonging and enhancement of health for the affected individuals.
So, what is a ventilator, and why is this medical equipment important, especially to COVID-19 patients?
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What is Medical Ventilator?
A medical ventilator refers to the medical equipment that ensures that the lungs have enough oxygen and that the lungs are also capable of taking oxygen out efficiently. It is a rather fancy piece of technology whose sole purpose is to breathe for someone unable to breathe on their own effectively, because of how it works and the fact that it helps you breathe when your lungs are unable to support your breathing effectively, the medical ventilator is often referred to as a respirator or the breathing machine.
Note that while the respirator is the medical mask used by health workers to take care of persons with contagious illnesses, the medical ventilator is the bedside medical equipment that features tubes that are connected to the airways for the patient to be able to breathe.
How does a ventilator work?
To understand how the ventilator works, we first need to take a look at how the lungs work. Essentially, your lungs are breathing machines that are interwoven with millions of blood vessels, and these blood vessels are the superheroes that allow for oxygen to get into your bloodstream and for carbon dioxide to be carried out.
Unfortunately, this normal lung function is severely affected by COVID-19 patients, and the normal oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange becomes a tad more difficult. In such severe cases of COVID-19, there is significant inflammation of the lungs, and the lungs are also filled up with fluids (as it’s also the case with pneumonia), making normal breathing extremely difficult or impossible. This is where the ventilator comes in, and it ensures that the patient’s lungs have the capacity to work.
Unlike the older versions of ventilators, modern ventilators feature a pump machine along with a tube that the medical professionals will slide down into your windpipe via the nose or mouth to ensure better-controlled breathing and also control over airflow, through a process called intubation. Thanks to the medical ventilators, lung function in COVID-19 patients is improved, and the patients don’t have to feel that they are drowning.
Besides ensuring an efficient flow of air through the tubes and into the lungs via the windpipe, the ventilator could also breathe for the patient when lung function is too low. Often, the ventilator will be set to take a specific number of breaths per minute, and it might also be programmed to work automatically so that it’s at a position to blow into your lungs, especially if the patient hasn’t been able to breathe on their own for a specific amount of time.
Note that the tubes for this breathing machine are uncomfortable, and patients can’t talk or eat when you’re hooked to the machine, hence the delivery of nutrients via the IV.
It is important to keep in mind that despite the effectiveness of ventilators in ensuring that you keep breathing if you contract the coronavirus, the truth is that the ventilator is in no way the cure for COVID-19; it is only a medical device that is designed to ensure your survival until your lungs are better and capable of working on their own.
What are the risks of being on a ventilator?
While the ventilator remains a crucial aspect in the medical world for the management of COVID-19 as the world deals with the pandemic, the sad truth is that this machine often comes with complications, and there are risks that you need to be aware of.
One of the risks that you need to be aware of is the fact that the ventilator could cause damage to the patient’s lung tissue depending on the amount of pressure needed from the machine to ensure that oxygen is processed by the patient’s lungs. In severe cases where the lungs require significant help, the use of medical ventilators is quite tricky because COVID-19 patients need a lot of help breathing, and this translates to the need for very high levels of pressure, and subsequently, high oxygen needs because of the inflammation of the patients’ lungs.
The other risk associated with being on the mechanical ventilator lies in the tubes that carry the extra oxygen to the lungs, and how these tubes often end up being a pathway for dangerous germs to make way to the patients’ lungs, worsening their current states. This has been the case of most patients who’ve been hooked up to the ventilator as they’ve been exposed to problems like ventilator-associated pneumonia.
The breathing tube could easily rub against your throat or lungs, causing irritation, and it could also make coughing hard. It’s important to note that coughing is important because it; makes it easy and possible for you to get rid of irritants and dust from your lungs.
The ventilator could cause significant lung damage from all the pressure applied to your lungs, oxygen toxicity, or pneumothorax (when air leaks into the space between your chest wall and the lungs).
Hypoxemia means that there is very little oxygen in your blood, a condition that results from damage to the lungs.
Vocal cord issues
The ventilator’s breathing tubs pass through the larynx (voice box), which houses the vocal cords, which is why it’s impossible to speak with the ventilator working. While helping you to breathe, there is always the risk of the tubes rubbing against your vocal cords badly, causing damage. Patients are, therefore, advised to notify their doctors when they are unable to speak or breathe after being hooked to the ventilator.
In addition to all that, studies now show that some individuals who remain conscious while hooked to the ventilator often experience panic attacks, while the pain from the tubes results in difficulties for the patients as they are unable to relax.
While patients are often sedated and unconscious when on the ventilator, you don’t always get back to where you left as the strong medications often take long to wear off. As the drugs wear off slowly, you may have a hard time writing, thinking clearly, reading, sleeping, and some patients struggle with paranoia.
This is the other risk associated with being hooked to the medical ventilator. It often happens because a patient is sedated, and if they have to be on the ventilator for too long, the immobility might be felt when they are finally off the ventilator and conscious.
Lastly, there is a long-term risk of mental, physical, and even emotional issues from being hooked to the ventilator. In some cases, these patients experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
The other risks associated with being hooked to the ventilator include blood clots and skin infections.
Here are the top 15 Medical Ventilator brands/ manufacturers of 2020
1. ResMed Inc.
This US-based company is regarded as a global leader when it comes to respiratory medicine. The brand CEO notes that ResMed Inc. is in the frontline in ensuring proper management of coronavirus by maximizing the availability of their ventilators along with other respiratory support devices.
2. Philips Healthcare
Philips is a renowned electronics brand, but what you might not know is that Philips is a Dutch company based in the Netherlands. It is a multinational company with its headquarters in Amsterdam, and it was previously one of the largest electronics companies in the world. Currently, Philips is more focused on health technology, and it is one of the leading brands when it comes to the provision of better health outcomes across the world. By leveraging the most advanced technologies, Philips offers medical equipment for healthy living and disease prevention, diagnosis, home care, treatment, and disease management. Besides life support machines like ventilators, they also offer diagnostic imaging, patient monitoring, image-guided therapy, and health informatics equipment, among others.
3. Medtronic plc.
Medtronic PLC is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, and it is one of the largest medical technology, solutions, and services companies in the world. They focus on the restoration of health, alleviation of pain, and extending life.
4. Getinge Group
The other respirators’ company at the frontline in the fight against the novel coronavirus is the Sweden-based Getinge Group. This brand is known for its investment of advanced mechanical ventilation, and they have been producing the respirators from early in the 1970s.
Vyaire is a US-based company known for cutting edge medical technologies and medical ventilators. Formerly called Becton Dickinson, Vyaire is at the frontline in the management and the mitigation of risks associated with the novel coronavirus. Vyaire Medical boasts a global reach, and they offer a wide range of services in the respiratory business sector.
6. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is another leading medical designer, manufacturer, and the marketer of the systems and products often used in primary respiratory care, surgery, acute care, as well as the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. They have a global reach, and they supply medical products to at least 120 countries.
7. Smiths Group PLC
This UK-based manufacturer of medical ventilators is behind the Pneupac® ventilator brand. The company also features some of the most trusted teams of first responders, emergency medicine physicians, and paramedics in the world. Their Pneupac® ventilators are made following the industry’s highest standards of quality, durability, and reliability. The ventilators are also backed by comprehensive support and service programs for optimum operation.
8. Dräger Group
Based in Germany, the Dräger Group is one of the leading medical ventilators companies on the market today, serving the medical field by not only ensuring the supply of ventilators to help in the fight against coronavirus but also by providing personal protective equipment (PPEs), while educating the public and protecting their employees.
9. GE Healthcare
With the world navigating the coronavirus challenge, GE Healthcare, based in the US, is at the frontline offering their support to healthcare providers and medical partners/ communities around the world.
10. Hamilton Medical AG
Hamilton Medical AG is the other leading brand of medical ventilators, and it’s based in Switzerland. This company is behind some of the most intelligent ventilation solutions for patients and different situations. And with the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the exponential growth in demands, the company is committed to helping the country and the world overcome the coronavirus challenge. To this end, Hamilton Medical AG has increased its production capacity by 50% in 2020.
11. Bio-Med Devices
The US-based Bio-Med Devices company is also at the front line, offering the best medical ventilators to help handle and mitigate the challenges faced as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
12. Bunnell Incorporated
Bunnell Incorporated is a leading medical equipment company that was founded in 1980. They focus on the production of medical ventilators, and the company has been on the frontline dealing with COVID-19 through the supply of medical ventilators where they are needed.
13. Oceanic Medical Products, Inc.
This brand sells the Magellan Ventilator used in demanding environments, including airmobile operations, in-hospital transport, veterinary medicine, operating/ recovery rooms, and special treatment areas, etc. This company is based in the US.
14. WEINMANN Medical Technology
Weinmann Medical Technology is another company providing medical ventilators to help medical facilities help COVID-19 patients deal with the disease. It’s based in Germany, and it’s also known for the provision of medical emergency equipment wherever they are needed.
15. Cardinal Health
Cardinal Health is a US-based manufacturer of medical ventilators, and like the other companies seen here, they are working tirelessly with the medical community.
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Modern ventilators are designed to effectively take over a patient’s breathing function, and although these mechanical ventilators will not heal COVID-19 patients, they are effective in keeping the patients stable while they undergo treatment. The ventilator allows for mechanical ventilation while the underlying problem resolves.
The companies mentioned above are among the best companies that provide medical ventilators on the market today, helping in the fight against the novel coronavirus.