Humidifier reduces pneumonia

Engineers working at Cambridge Design Partnership have developed a new humidification system, called Hydrator, which is aimed at reducing Ventilator Associated Pneumonia, an illness that kills up to 10,000 patients in intensive care units (ICU) every year in the UK.

The illness typically affects 10 per cent of patients in ICU, leading to further complications and an extended stay in hospital. The death rate is one of the highest for any hospital-acquired infection.

Existing active humidifiers add water to air inspired by a patient, but bacteria grow in the condensation in the breathing circuits and can cause VAP.

’A high proportion of the patients in intensive care need assistance with breathing. Normally as you breathe the air is warmed and humidified by the nose. However, for a patient on a mechanical ventilator this happens artificially, resulting in pools of condensation forming in the tubes. If colonised by bacteria, these can lead to VAP,’ said Dr Gilbert Park at the John Farman ICU at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

The Hydrator system, on the other hand, works by preventing such condensation and, unlike existing active humidifiers, incorporates a filter that contains the harmful bacteria. The Hydrator ensures that the air is fully humidified, meaning that the patient can use it for the full duration of their stay in hospital.

The development of the Hydrator is part-funded by a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) contract. SBRI funds projects that aim to find solutions to intractable problems that are identified as being of strategic importance to the NHS. The project has achieved proof of concept and a prototype is currently being developed.

This work was commissioned under the SBRI East competition led by the NHS East of England with joint oversight from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).