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A device to treat sleep apnea adapted for use as respiratory support for COVID-19 patients


A team of researchers from Hospital Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) have adapted and evaluated an apparatus normally utilized to treat sleep apnea for its use as respiratory support for patients with COVID-19. The device could aid seriously ill patients before they are admitted into critical care, as well as providing support for patients who are progressing favorably in an intensive care unit. 

The 730 machine, manufactured by the Yuwell company, is a bi-level positive airway pressure support system. A thousand of these devices were brought to Spain as part of a medical equipment purchase made by BBVA in China and donated to Spain’s Ministry of Health to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. The first 260 of them arrived in Barcelona on Saturday, March 28, and the remaining 740 arrived in Zaragoza on Tuesday, March 31. They were then distributed by BBVA to the different health services in Spain’s autonomous communities, in accordance with the allocation plan designed by the Ministry of Health.

After arrival of the first  devices on March 28, a small number of them were sent to the Servicio de Medicina y Cirugía Experimental del Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón de Madrid to analyze their function. This service is headed by Dr. Manuel Desco, who is a professor in the UC3M Department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering. From that date until April 7, this unit and the Servicio de Neumología del Gregorio Marañónworked on exploring the optimal use for this machine in managing the COVID-19 crisis. They likewise counted on support from BBVA in obtaining components (3D printed connectors with collaboration from Accenture), sensors (an oximeter borrowed from the Hospital Universitario de Getafe) and direct communication via Skype with technicians from the Yuwell manufacturer in Nanjing (China), in addition to support from the group of collaborators at Respiradores4all (

As a consequence of this collaborative effort, these devices have been able to be adapted and classified without the need to use any additional component.Thus, instead of pressurized air, the device can supplya mix that is rich in oxygen,providing the oxygen and pressure needed by the patient. Accordingly, it could be used in the fight against COVID-19, if this is ascertained in the hospitals where the equipment is distributed. If this is the case, the devices could be used, first, for patients whose condition is deteriorating to the point where they need to be admitted to intensive care (so that admission can be delayed or even avoided),and secondly, for patients who are in the ICU, but whose condition is not excessively compromised, in an assisted mode, or for patients who are in the process of being taken off them the conventional invasive ventilator to make the conventional ventilator available for other patients.  In these cases, the device could be effective in relieving pressure on the hospital’s ICU services, as well as in treating patients in other wards.