Northwell Health using modified BiPAP machines as ventilators

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, so does the fear of running out of ventilators. And for a patient, that could be the difference between life and death.

Dr. Hugh Cassiere, the medical director for respiratory therapy services with Northwell Health, is using 3D-printed parts to turn bilevel positive airway pressure, or BiPAP, machines typically used to treat sleep apnea or COPD into ventilators. New York state on Tuesday ordered 7,000 machines.

"This is a bad science fiction movie and it keeps going and running. We're on three weeks already," he said. "I woke up in the middle of the night one day and said maybe we can use these ventilators as a true invasive ventilator and that started the ball rolling."

While the device isn't intended for this use by the FDA, Cassiere said it is a temporary solution to help patients who have difficulty breathing as a result of COVID-19 lung disease.

"I got consent from the wife of a patient and I explained to her what I wanted to do that I wanted to hook her husband up to this device to see if we could ventilate him to help other people," Cassiere said. "She was ecstatic and said he would want to save people even at the time of his death."

The government anticipates New York could need tens of thousands of ventilators when the number of patients peaks.

While Cassiere said he hopes the hospitals will have the necessary supply, he said this is a viable backup and is safer and more practical than hooking up two patients to one ventilator.

"We're in a position where either the patient dies or we use a device that we're not supposed to use to see if we can help the patient," he said.

Northwell Health told FOX 5 NY that it has an adequate supply of ventilators for its patients but as the apex approaches, doctors say converting these machines has the potential to save hundreds of lives.


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