By Manas Mishra

(Reuters) – A hospital in Connecticut has successfully employed a new 3D-printed device that makes it possible to modify one ventilator for use in two critically ill patients with COVID-19 who have different respiratory needs, as the coronavirus outbreak puts a crunch on medical resources.

The device was tested in patients at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, its maker, Vent Multiplexor LLC, said on Monday.

Use of one ventilator for two COVID patients was reported in a New York hospital last month, but a major limitation to wider use of the approach has been that patients had to be similar in size, with similar lung function and respiratory needs.

The new device, called a vent multiplexor, allows doctors to adjust each patient’s tidal volume, or the amount of air moving into and out of the lungs with each breath.

“These device would be used in the event that we would have entirely run out of ventilators, or would need extra capacity in a surge setting,” said Peter Kahn, a doctor at the hospital and also the medical director of Vent Multiplexor.

Kahn said the hospital was making extensive preparations to meet patient needs but had not yet needed to use the device. It would monitor the situation and deploy the device as needed, Kahn told Reuters.

Mechanical ventilators are used to provide oxygen to a person who can no longer breathe unaided.

States across the country have been scrambling to procure the machines, which can be the difference between life and death for patients with severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The ventilator is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the agency’s “Emergency Use Authorization.” Vent Multiplexor said it expects “tens of thousands of units” could be made available for immediate distribution once the device was authorized for use.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; editing by Nancy Lapid and Dan Grebler)