Performance of portable ventilators at altitude
SCHOOL OF AEROSPACE MEDICINE WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH AEROMEDICAL RESEARCH DEPT
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Aeromedical transport of critically ill patients requires continued, accurate performance of equipment at altitude. Changes in barometric pressure can affect the performance of mechanical ventilators calibrated for operation at sea level. Deploying ventilators that can maintain a consistent tidal volume VT delivery at various altitudes is imperative for lung protection when transporting wounded war fighters to each echelon of care. Three ventilators Impact 731, Hamilton T1, and CareFusion Revel were tested at pediatric 50 and 100 mL and adult 250Y750 mL tidal VTs at 0 and 20 cm H2O positive end expiratory pressure and at inspired oxygen of 0.21 and 1.0. Airway pressure, volume, and flow were measured at sea level as well as at 8,000, 16,000, and 22,000 ft corresponding to barometric pressures of 760, 564, 412, and 321 mm Hg using a calibrated pneumotachograph connected to a training test lung in an altitude chamber. Set VT and delivered VT as well as changes in VT at each altitude were compared by t test. The T1 delivered VT within 10 of set VT at 8,000 ft. The mean VT was less than set VT at sea level as a result of circuit compressible volume with the Revel and the 731. Changes in VT varied widely among the devices at sea level and at altitude. Increasing altitudes resulted in larger VT than set for the Revel and the T1. The 731 compensated for changes in altitude delivered VT within 10 at the adult settings at all altitudes. Altitude compensation is an active software algorithm. Only the 731 actively accounts for changes in barometric pressure to maintain the set VT at all tested altitudes.
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