In the last 10 years, portable home ventilators have evolved rapidly.
While the LP6 ventilator for example was already marketed as portable when it first arrived on the scene in the 80s, it is still a very heavy and cumbersome piece of technology. It was advertised as a compact and lightweight design, however it weighs a good 35 pounds. LP6 ventilator users were constantly bumping into corners, even tipping their wheelchair.
But technology is constantly changing and new models are always being developed. Old mainframe computers used to take up a whole room. Today’s smart phones not only have more computing power than those old mainframe computers, they also fit easily into our pockets!
Ventilators have not shrunk quite enough in size yet to fit into a coat pocket. However, examining a brochure for one of the newer ventilators on the market, the Astral 150, compact and lightweight design is still being touted as a feature. And indeed, the Astral 150 weighs in at only 7 pounds, a whole 28 pounds lighter than the LP6.
We may be approaching a plateau in terms of mechanical shrinkage. The turbine, battery, and screen will always need to be present as part of a ventilator and those components dictate a certain size. New emphasis will be on software development and interconnectivity: in the future, ventilators will become smarter and converse with other electronic monitoring devices.
They will use acquired data and make decisions based on medical protocols and evidence based algorithms. Parameters such as volume, respiratory rate, flow, inspiration time, and alarms will be adjusted in real time based on an individual’s status to provide the best therapy in a current condition.
These innovations look very promising on paper and the next generation of ventilators will be exciting to work with. But it is very important to bear one thing in mind: while mechanical ventilators are getting smaller and smarter all the time, they won’t be replacing a Respiratory Therapists any time soon.
This is brought to you by Patrick Cho, Respiratory Therapist with the PROP (Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program) department.