New device helping critically-ill patients breathe easier

24 Nov 2017

New equipment on the Adult Critical Care Unit at The Royal London Hospital is giving breathing support to patients who are struggling following severe trauma or other medical conditions that cause severe respiratory failure.

£20,000 Barts Charity funding helped staff on the intensive care unit (ICU) to purchase the “NovaLung Activve®” device (pictured) to enable such patients to be managed at The Royal London Hospital, home to a major trauma centre. This equipment will help avoid transferring such patients to other centres that may not have the specialist expertise immediately available at The Royal London to manage the rest of their clinical problems.

Severe trauma, particularly to the chest or head, can lead to respiratory failure and other breathing problems that can be complex and fatal.

Mechanical ventilation in the ICU is critical for treatment of these patients. Despite this support, the mortality in such patients can be as high as 40%. The ventilation can also cause further injury and patients who survive such severe respiratory failure often develop chronic lung disease as a result. This can leave them with severe debilitation and inability to carry out their normal to day-to-day activities when they leave hospital.

Research suggests that more gentle ventilation can improve mortality and reduces lung injury.

The NovaLung device is a pumped system that removes blood from patients and oxygenates it in an artificial lung before returning it back to the patient – similar to how a dialysis machine replaces the function of a kidney.

By doing the function of the lungs, the NovaLung device reduces the work needed by mechanical ventilators, providing more gentle support to patients in delicate conditions.

“We believe that this device will be a major addition to the management of these complex patients at the Adult Critical Care Unit at The Royal London,” said Dr Parjam Zolfaghari (pictured, right), consultant on the unit.

The Royal London major trauma centre sees a high number of patients with chest and head trauma. NovaLung will ensure that the staff have the equipment to match their expertise – while also reducing the need for potentially risky transfers to hospitals that may have similar equipment but not the same all-round capabilities for treating severely-injured trauma patients.

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