University News

University’s Biomedical Engineering Program Working to Address Potential Medical Equipment Shortages During Coronavirus Outbreak

Dr. Kagya Amoako and his students are using 3D-printing technology to develop innovative solutions for the possible lack of critical equipment healthcare providers need to treat patients impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

March 30, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Flow connectors.
Flow connectors hooked up to medical grade respiratory tubes.

Shortly after the University of New Haven announced that – amid the coronavirus global pandemic – all classes would be conducted remotely for the remainder of the spring semester, Anthony Iovene ’21 M.S. was approached by his adviser to work on designing some t-connectors and adapters – components of medical ventilation systems – that could be created using a 3D printer.

Using dimensions he found online and parameters provided by Kagya Amoako, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering, Iovene got to work, using the computer program SolidWorks to design the parts.

Image of Kagya Amoako, Ph.D..
Kagya Amoako, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

"This is a global emergency and pandemic, and, as a biomedical engineer, I feel it is our duty to do everything we can to help," said Iovene, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in biomedical engineering. "It is our hope that we will be able to donate these parts to medical facilities in need."

While responding to the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare providers around the world have, at times, been unable to obtain the necessary medical supplies and equipment. Dr. Amoako, coordinator of the University’s graduate program in biomedical engineering, believes 3D printing is an innovative way to help address that need.

"Based on the trajectory of the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and fatality rates in the U.S., it is not unrealistic to think that we may face similar experiences of not having enough ventilators to provide respiratory support for the sick," said Dr. Amoako, who serves as director of the University’s Biomaterials and Medical Device Innovation Laboratory. "This is currently happening in Italy and Spain, and it could happen here."

Medical ventilators are used to provide respiratory support to critically ill patients who are unable to breathe on their own. Typically, breathing machines bring oxygen through a single tube to a patient’s lungs. Another single tube will then take expired gases away from the lungs.

Image of Anthony Iovene ’21 M.S..
Anthony Iovene ’21 M.S.

Dr. Amoako and his students have developed 3D printed flow connectors that would enable physicians to treat two severely ill COVID-19 patients using one ventilator. With the connector, the two lines can be bifurcated so that two patients can be hooked up to a single breathing machine.

Dr. Amoako says this method has been used in the past when mechanical ventilators were scarce, such as when treating patients who were hurt in a mass shooting at a music festival Las Vegas in 2017.

Even though faculty, staff, and students at the University are currently working and learning remotely, Dr. Amoako says there are still many ways to collaborate and innovate.

"We developed these flow connectors over a couple of days while working remotely," he explains. "We are willing to donate these important pieces to critical care units that need them to augment their COVID-19 case surge and to support their critical-care support strategies."

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