COVID-19: New UK-designed ventilator could mean fewer patients need intensive care

January 20, 2021

UK experts have designed a new ventilator that could allow more people with severe coronavirus to be treated outside intensive care.

Conventional ventilators give positive pressure and push air into the lungs, but Exovent instead lowers the pressure outside of the body.

It allows lung tissue to expand and function in a similar way to normal breathing.

Researchers say the negative pressure device is more comfortable than other ventilators - which use a mask or a tube to provide air - as well as being significantly cheaper and needing fewer staff.

Patients also don't need sedating and can eat and take medicine by mouth, while also being freed up to speak to family on video calls or phone. However, the ventilator still needs to be approved by regulators.

Designed by a team of anaesthetists, nurses and engineers, it uses a pump to adjust pressure around the torso.

The body can be monitored through a window and portholes provide access to the patient.

Chief executive Ian Joesbury called it a "cutting-edge reinvention of pre-existing technology".

"As the patient does not need to be sedated, it opens up alternative treatment options that may allow more patients with COVID-19 to be treated outside of intensive care," he said.

It was tested on six healthy adults and researchers say it delivered "increased lung expansion to people breathing spontaneously, and powerful ventilation to take over people's breathing entirely, using only moderate negative pressures".

A full clinical trial is needed to verify the results, but the company plans to submit the design to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Exovent's maker says it could also help people with pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

More details on the device have been published in the journal Anaesthesia.

The government's chief scientific adviser will be on Sky News this morning to answer your questions.

Sir Patrick Vallance will join us for a live Q&A from 8.35am - you'll be able watch and follow it online here.

Send the question you want answering on email or a video clip to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll put it to him.

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