The lack of oxygen due to the complications of COVID has increased the need for mechanical ventilators and Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). A mechanical ventilator is a device that supports the breathing process by pumping in more air, which can help in maintaining the required oxygen levels. These ventilators can be broadly classified into two types as mentioned below.
The two main types of mechanical ventilators are:
The two main types of mechanical ventilators are Invasive and Non-Invasive ventilators.
In invasive mechanical ventilators, a tube is inserted into the patient’s neck to take over the entire breathing process and make it mechanical breathing.
Whereas non-invasive mechanical ventilators are those which consist of a mask that fits the nose and the air is pumped through the nose into the lungs.
Based on the condition of the patients the volume and pressure can be controlled in the mechanical ventilators.
The ECMO system is a device in which the blood is oxygenated and pumped into the patient’s body using artificial lungs. This is mainly utilized in the case of heart or lung transplants.
Based on the type of support provided, ECMO is of two types:
Venoarterial: It supports both the heart and the lung system.
Venovenous: It supports only the lung system.
Key differences between the mechanical ventilator and ECMO system:
Side Effects: In the mechanical ventilator, the volume and pressure of the oxygen need to be controlled. The increase in volume and pressure will increase the risk of lung damage. This volume and pressure might vary from time to time and is difficult to understand the exact need of the patient.
In the case of the ECMO system, the risk of lung damage is reduced as the circulation is external and does not require the help of lung muscles.
Immediate solution: Mechanical ventilator helps in providing immediate support to the patient as it is easier to handle and monitor.
Whereas, the ECMO system requires specialists to be involved in setting up the system and monitoring.
Ease of availability: Since the setup and managing of mechanical ventilators do not require highly specialized expertise, they can be easily made available.
The ECMO system requires a dedicated set of highly specialized experts, hence, it cannot be made available easily.
Cost-effectiveness: Mechanical ventilators are more cost-effective compared to ECMO systems as ECMO systems require higher setup and maintenance costs.
The major challenges faced by ventilation systems are:
- The timing of removal of the mechanical ventilator system needs to be accurate, else it leads to a high mortality rate.
- The pressure and volume adjustment plays a vital role in preventing lung damage.
- It is not advisable for a lung-damaged patient.
The major challenges faced by ECMO systems are:
- The chances of contracting infection due to the placement of a tube in a vein or artery are high.
- There are higher chances for internal or external bleeding.
- Any formation of blood clots and air bubbles can lead to thrombosis and embolism, which will block the part of blood vessels leading to the prevention of blood flow to a particular organ.
Mechanical ventilator and artificial intelligence:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for mechanical ventilators. Due to the huge cost involved in procuring a mechanical ventilator, it is not easily affordable by low-budgeted hospitals. Hence efforts for producing low-cost mechanical ventilators using artificial intelligence are being made to make these ventilators easily available for hospitals of all sizes.
- With the advancement of technologies like artificial intelligence, ventilators with automated pressure and volume of oxygen supply controls are being developed to minimize the chances of lung damage.
- Implementing artificial intelligence in mechanical ventilators enables them to accurately predict the vital signs and quantity of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. This would help in reducing the risk of mortality due to acute respiratory failure which is caused by the imbalance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
ECMO and Artificial Intelligence:
- Since brain injury due to internal bleeding is one of the major causes of death while using ECMO, AI is being used to predict brain injury at an earlier stage. This would help in treating the patients at an early stage and will reduce the mortality rate.
- Ways to expand the usage of ECMO systems in providing artificial wearable lung systems are being developed using artificial intelligence.
- With the help of AI in the ECMO system, the formation of blood clots and air traps during the circulation process can be predicted and eliminated before it enters the patients’ body. Thus, reducing the chances of thrombosis and embolism.
The combination of artificial intelligence in medical devices like mechanical ventilators and ECMO systems has opened a new dimension in the field of respiratory systems. It has also helped in improving the quality of life of the patients.