Modelling the lungs

UK researchers are to create a computer model of the lungs based on information collected from real patients.


Researchers at the universities of Nottingham and Leicester are working on an EPSRC-funded project to create models of human lungs in order to optimise hospital ventilators.



Ventilators on an intensive care ward provide the oxygen that keeps patients alive when they are unable to breathe for themselves. However, the machines can leave patients with debilitating lung injuries and in some cases injuries are so serious the patient never recovers.



‘The use of these ventilators – which mechanically inflate and deflate the lungs – can cause tearing. A patient could be left with lungs so badly scarred it could affect them for the rest of their life,’ said Dr Jonathan Hardman, of NottinghamUniversity’s Division of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care.



The £432,000 research project will enable Dr Hardman to work with control engineer Dr Declan Bates at LeicesterUniversity to produce computer models using data collected from patients on the Intensive Care Unit at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre.



The researchers claim that the models could be used to test a range of different uses of the ventilator, for example, varying the amount of oxygen supplied to the patient or the number of breaths per minute provided by the machine.


‘Eventually this could lead to computer management of ventilators which will provide the optimum treatment with the least risk of injury,’ said Dr Hardman.