Duke University, Microsoft develop ventilator splitting tech for COVID-19 patients

A team of Durham, N.C.-based Duke University researchers partnered with Microsoft to create a ventilator splitting system to help COVID-19 patients in the wake of hospital surges and potential supply shortages, according to a Dec. 1 Microsoft blog post.

The collaboration is part of Microsoft's AI for Health initiative, which is a $60 million, five-year program focused on supporting researchers and organizations' artificial intelligence projects in healthcare. The ventilator splitting system connects two patients to a ventilator designed to breathe for one person; the device allows hospitals to safely regulate the oxygen directed to each patient while essentially doubling their ventilator capacity.

The Duke research team began working with Microsoft in March through the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which was launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The consortium aims to provide COVID-19 researchers with access to powerful and high-performance computing resources to combat the virus.

Duke's project focused on giving physicians a system that "no matter what patient weight or what lung compliance they ran into, that data was already there and would provide them with the guidance they needed to determine how best to use" the ventilator splitter, said Amanda Randles, PhD, assistant biomedical sciences professor at Duke University.

Dr. Randles and her colleagues developed the ventilator splitter device and created the software for the system using airflow simulations so it can be customized for patients. The FDA has not yet granted emergency use authorization for the device.


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