New technology designed to minimize damage to the lungs caused by mechanical ventilation is being trialed in a UK study led by Queen’s University Belfast. The research project will include 1,120 critically ill patients in 40 different sites in Britain and Northern Ireland over 5 years. According to a Queen’s University Belfast news release, the study will be one of the largest clinical trials in the world, to date, involving patients with respiratory failure. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has funded the research, which will be jointly led by Queen’s and Belfast Health and Social Services Trust.

The new technology, called extracorporeal carbon dioxide (ECCO2) removal that aims to facilitate a gentler type of ventilation, does offer hope more lives can be saved but only a clinical trial will provide definitive results. Professor Danny McAuley, of Queen’s University Belfast says, “A mechanical ventilator acts like bellows as air is forced into the lungs under pressure. If the pressure is too high, this can cause lasting damage. But we are hoping that this new technology will help us ventilate the lungs more gently.”

McAuley adds, “That is because these new devices have been designed to help remove carbon dioxide from the patient’s blood – in a process quite similar to kidney dialysis – which is one of the main functions of the lungs.” McAuley explains that the new technology involves a catheter being inserted into the patient’s vein.

“Blood from the patient then passes through a device where it is ‘washed’ to remove carbon dioxide before being returned to the patient,” McAuley explains. “By temporarily removing some of this function from the lungs, it means they do not have to do as much work as usual, and so a gentler ventilation may be sufficient, easing the pressure on them.” The extracorporeal CO2 removal device to be used in the study is called the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System made by ALung Technologies.

Dr James McNamee from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust explains that there will be two groups of people in the study who were admitted to the ICU with respiratory failure. McNamee states, “One will receive the best level of care within current NHS guidelines while the other group will have the additional, new treatment to artificially remove the carbon dioxide from their blood. At the end, we should know whether the new technology can impact on mortality rates.”

Peter DeComo, CEO of ALung, says, “We are honored to have been chosen by the study team as the technology partner for this very important project. This study promises to provide the most robust evidence yet regarding the impact of minimally invasive extracorporeal CO2 removal technology to reduce mortality through facilitation of an ‘ultraprotective’ ventilation strategy.”

Source: Queen’s University Belfast