Table of contents:

What are ventilators, who needs them and why they are in short supply
What are ventilators, who needs them and why they are in short supply

The problem is so acute that Elon Musk himself took up the solution. But even this does not guarantee success.

What are ventilators, who needs them and why they are in short supply
What are ventilators, who needs them and why they are in short supply

What is mechanical ventilation?

Ventilation is an artificial ventilation of the lungs. The devices that provide it are sometimes referred to by doctors as ventilators (from English ventilation). Their main task is to help patients who, for some reason, cannot breathe on their own.

The ventilator pumps air into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide from them. Thus, he "breathes" for the patient, while his body is struggling with disease or injury.

There are two ventilation options:

  1. Non-invasive ventilation of the lungs. This is when a special sealed mask or helmet is put on the patient, through which oxygen is supplied under pressure.
  2. Invasive ventilation of the lungs. It is used if the non-invasive option, for some reason, cannot provide a person with the required amount of oxygen in the blood. In this case, a so-called endotracheal tube is inserted into the patient's trachea through the mouth or nose and air is supplied almost directly to the lungs. Also, the tube can be inserted through an incision in the trachea, then it is called a tracheostomy tube.

Why do you need artificial lung ventilation?

In intensive care, mechanical ventilation is performed for everyone who has stopped breathing. The reasons for this can be different: pulmonary hemorrhage due to trauma, drowning, pneumonia, pulmonary or cerebral edema, poisoning with drugs or narcotic drugs, anaphylactic shock …

If a person does not breathe for 5 minutes or more, vital organs begin to die. First of all, the brain suffers.

The coronavirus also affects the lungs. In about 5% of cases, the disease is very severe and leads to respiratory failure. If such a patient is connected to a ventilator, his body will not suffer from a lack of oxygen.

Can mechanical ventilation cure coronavirus?

No. The main task of the apparatus is to enable the sick person to breathe, that is, to keep him alive until the lungs (on their own or with the help of drugs) start working again.

As soon as breathing is restored, the patient is removed from the ventilator.

Are there really not enough ventilators?

Yes. The regions that have already faced powerful outbreaks of COVID-19 were especially acutely lacking. For example, Italian Lombardy or the American state of New York.

In Italy, due to a shortage of ventilators, physicians were encouraged to make controversial decisions from a humanistic point of view. Thus, the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) issued recommendations in which it suggested that physicians conduct triage (triage) of patients, including by age. The older the victim, the less his chances of survival, which means that it is not he who should go to the intensive care unit, but a younger and healthier person. Thus, Italy was forced to admit that medical resources, including ventilators, would not be enough for everyone.

On April 2, the Governor of New York announced that, given the sharp rise in the number of cases, the supply of ventilators will run out within six days.

Not only Italy and the USA face the lack of "fans", but also other countries - Spain, France, Great Britain … And this is quite understandable.

There are usually enough ventilators in intensive care units until a pandemic breaks out - which is unpredictable.

At the same time, it is very expensive and difficult to create supplies to keep them at hand for every firefighter.

Artificial lung ventilation is a delicate and multifaceted process. It is not limited to the supply of oxygen and the removal of carbon dioxide. Oxygen sources are needed. Bronchoscopes to assess the condition of the lungs. Devices for cleansing the trachea and lungs. Monitors to monitor the patient's condition and change the parameters of artificial ventilation in accordance with it.

In general, the “intensive care bed”, which is needed for every twentieth (according to other, less optimistic data, every tenth) of the COVID-19 patients is not just a bed, but a complex set of medical equipment that must be manually adjusted for each specific patient.

And what about mechanical ventilation in Russia?

As reported by "RIA Novosti" with reference to the Ministry of Health, there are more than 47,000 artificial lung ventilation devices in the Russian Federation, so the country is ready for a possible increase in the number of cases of coronavirus.


Deputy Minister of Health of the Russian Federation Vladimir Uyba

By the end of May, hospitals will be additionally equipped with more than 8,000 ventilators.

However, a lot depends on how the situation will develop and how many people will get sick.

Maybe you should buy a ventilator and, if anything, bring it to the hospital?

It may be possible to buy a device. But in general, this idea is so-so. For a variety of reasons.

First, it is far from certain that the hospital will accept your “ventilator”. The transfer of medical equipment requires a huge number of different approvals, and they can refuse at any stage. In addition, doctors are responsible for the treatment of each patient - even criminal responsibility. And far from every physician will take a risk, agreeing to use a "home" device.

Second, as mentioned above, the ventilator does not work alone. Dozens of other devices and consumables will be required (for example, an oxygen source). In addition, specialists are needed to service the apparatus. Many. It is unlikely that in the midst of a pandemic, you will be able to "buy" them along with the device.

Third, it is simply unethical. The purchased device will gather dust at home, while people are dying in a nearby hospital due to a lack of "ventilators". Are you ready to go for it?

And what should everyone do with this?

Today, states are actively increasing the production of vital devices. In Russia alone, over 1,000 of them are produced per week. Private companies are also getting involved in this process.

For example, Ford executives have announced that they are working with General Electric to produce 50,000 “fans” in the next 100 days, and then supply up to 30,000 units a month.

Elon Musk also joined the process. On his Twitter, he offered to send Tesla's existing ventilators for free around the world. On one condition: "ventilators" must be installed immediately in hospitals to save lives.

But this whole race will only partially solve the problem. In the midst of a pandemic, the world needs not only mechanical ventilation, but also qualified specialists who can work with them. There are a limited number of such pros. And it will take time to train new specialists.

Therefore, the answer to the question of what to do is expected and simple.

Do everything so as not to be among those who need mechanical ventilation, and hospitalization in general.

Quarantines around the world are needed to reduce the number of cases, or at least stretch it in time - and to avoid a peak in which tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people will need help at once.

Therefore, strictly follow the rules of the self-isolation regime announced in your region. And of course, take care of yourself: wash your hands more often, avoid crowded places and close contact with strangers, wean yourself from the habit of touching your face. This is the most effective way to help yourself and the world cope with the pandemic.


Coronavirus. Number of infected:

242 972 175

in the world

8 131 164

in Russia View map