BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new, recently licensed medical device
developed by University at Buffalo researchers would introduce into
intensive care settings the powerful and effective method of
anesthetizing patients that works so well in the operating
The new UB ventilator has the potential to shorten the length of
patient stays in the intensive care unit (ICU) because it will
greatly reduce complications and habituation to sedatives used in
the ICU. It also is expected to be more cost-effective than current
methods of ventilating ICU patients.
The device also may have promising applications in treating
large numbers of patients during pandemics or other events with
mass casualties because it can safely enable multiple patients to
share a single ventilator without the risk of
The device is designed to cost effectively deliver to patients
small amounts of powerful inhalation anesthetic agents as they
breathe or are mechanically ventilated.
The portable patient ventilator was invented by Bradley Fuhrman,
M.D., professor of pediatrics and anesthesiology and chief of
critical care at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, and
Mark Dowhy, director of the Pediatric Critical Care Laboratory in
the UB Department of Pediatrics; both are on staff in the UB School
of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The invention, which has been presented at numerous technology
exhibitions, including the 2008 World's Best Technologies Showcase,
was licensed from UB to Medical Conservation Devices (MCD) of
Buffalo, located in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in
Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
Fuhrman and Dowhy are founding partners in MCD, and will receive
the UB Entrepreneurial Spirit Award at the UB Inventors and
Entrepreneurs Reception on March 5.
MCD is raising funds to further develop the prototype for FDA
medical-device evaluation. Initial prototype devices have been
validated in laboratory experiments. First Wave Technologies Inc.
is a partial owner and manager of MCD. It is a
technology-development company that partners with UB's Office of
Science, Technology and Economic Outreach to expand the
commercialization of early-stage university technologies utilizing
A key advantage of inhaled anesthetics over intravenous
sedation, which is the current approach in the ICU, is that inhaled
anesthesia delivers and clears sedatives by way of the lungs,
bypassing the metabolic and excretory systems. That's a critical
factor, Fuhrman said, for patients who have sustained damage to
their kidneys or livers, as a result of their illness.
When anesthesia is delivered through the lung, there is a much
more rapid onset of effect and much quicker reversal once it is
removed, an important consideration especially in patients who need
to be frequently or abruptly awakened, such as children who have
suffered trauma to the skull.
The invention addresses a problem common in ICU settings in
which sedation must be deep enough that the patient is not aware of
pain, but not so deep that it will cause withdrawal issues once the
patient is no longer sedated.
"We administer significant amounts of narcotics and other agents
to keep patients comfortable," explained Fuhrman. "But if we sedate
them too well, we often face problems with withdrawal."
In those cases, patients can exhibit shakiness, combativeness
and anxiety, symptoms that are then treated with methadone, usually
requiring the patient to remain in the ICU for several more
By contrast, Fuhrman explained, patients in operating rooms are
sedated using intravenous sedatives combined with precisely
controlled concentrations of inhalation agents delivered by an
expensive, specially designed anesthesia ventilator. An
anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist then monitors and controls a
patient's vital signs and depth of anesthesia on a moment-by-moment
"It's that kind of control that we are seeking to duplicate at
each ICU bedside," said Fuhrman.
"With our ventilator, the patient is continually rebreathing the
same anesthetic and oxygen mixture, so the amount of anesthetic
that is used can be reduced by about 80 percent," he said.
The ventilator was developed with initial assistance from the UB
Product Development Fund and the UB Center for Biomedical and
Bioengineering Technology (CAT).
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State
University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their
academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate
and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University
at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American