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QEH King's Lynn to be one of country's first in trialling 'iron lung'

Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital will be one of the first in the country to operate a state-of-the-art ventilator that may mean the difference between life and death for patients.

The Exovent negative pressure ventilator will be trialled at the QEH soon with a view to having the technology available by the autumn.

The new negative pressure ventilator, supplied by Anesthesia (44067842)
The new negative pressure ventilator, supplied by Anesthesia (44067842)

The news comes in a week that the QEH announced that another 30 patients with coronavirus had died at on its wards taking the total in the pandemic to 337.

Intensive care unit consultant Dr Peter Young and his colleague Senior Nurse Emily Hodges are founding members of the Exovent charity and have been active in the development of the Exovent-19 ventilator over the last year.

Dr Young said, “We are about to receive an Exovent unit in our simulation suite for training and further research in volunteers.

“We hope that, in the near future and with appropriate medical regulatory approvals or exemptions, we are able to offer the potential benefits to patients in the near future.”

Last year many big firms such as Ford, Dyson and McLaren were involved in trying to boost the number of ventilators inUK hospitals by coming up with quick and easy designs.

The Exovent was not part of that challenge, as it uses negativeinstead of positive pressure, and in fact is similar to the iron lung used to fight polio in the past.

The new negative pressure ventilator, supplied by Anesthesia (44067845)
The new negative pressure ventilator, supplied by Anesthesia (44067845)

With the use of polio vaccines, the iron lung has been phased out, but the technology could be of use with Covid-19 patients as well as those with other respiratory issues such as COPD.

The advantage of using this technology is that it could remove the need for more invasive surgery such as tracheotomy.

Exovent chief executive, Ian Joesbury, stated:“We are really excited to be unveiling this life saving system which is a cutting-edge reinvention of pre-existing technology.”

“In the UK I believe this can form part of a longer-term plan to treat Covid-19.

“As the patient does not need to be anaesthetised it opens up alternative treatment options that may allow more patients to be treated outside of intensive care.”

The latest and most advanced iteration, the Exovent-19, is ready to progress to approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

Once approved, several leading intensive and respiratory care units stand ready to trial the system, including Southampton University NIHR Biomedical Research Centre and the QEH.

Dr Malcolm Coulthard, from the Exovent team, said: “From research and findings to date, we firmly believe that the use of negative pressure devices can transform the patient journey for Covid-19 patients and those with pneumonia and other diseases that affect breathing.

“The technology is safe, simple to use and systems could be built and deployed rapidly, in both the UK and overseas.”

The task force formed in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis, inspired by calls from the Government for rapid innovation to combat Covid.

Exovent’s research was conducted following studies on 100 years of negative pressure ventilation, starting with the iron lung, which has been rendered almost obsolete. The iron lung saved many lives during the polio epidemic which began in the US in 1929.

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