Recent Improvements in Medical Equipment
for Children with Respiratory Conditions
The past few years have seen a dramatic improvement in many of the machines children with complex medical conditions use to support their breathing and keep their airways clear. The introduction of the Trilogy ventilator, a “knob-less” portable ventilator that operates like a computer, signaled a change to many children and parents that medical equipment had finally caught up to the digital age.
Several other new models of widely-used respiratory devices have become available for home use in the past two years. Two of them will be discussed here: the new version of Respironics CoughAssist device (the T70), and the new quieter model of the classic DeVilbiss suction machine (Vacu-Aide QSU).
Respironics CoughAssist T70
CoughAssist devices simulate a cough by alternating positive and negative air pressure. They are extremely useful for children who are unable to cough out secretions on their own.
If you have ever seen the dinosaur that is the original version of this CoughAssist device, you will know exactly why a new model was so desperately needed. The old version was huge, heavy, and non-portable. It had multiple knobs and other switches, looking more like the control panel of a submarine than a medical device. Not only was it difficult to maintain consistent settings with the knobs, but the knobs would also get knocked constantly. Children would sometimes receive dangerously high pressures (or completely ineffective low ones) simply because the knobs were inadvertently bumped.
Old and new models of the CoughAssist
The new model solves almost all of these problems. It is much smaller and lighter, and can be run off of a small, detachable battery. It is designed to have the same profile and battery needs as the Trilogy ventilator, meaning it can be attached to wheelchairs or stands using any carrier designed for the Trilogy. The batteries for the Trilogy and the CoughAssist are also interchangeable, easing the need to carry multiple, large batteries to power equipment.
The new model is also completely computerized with no more knobs. Settings are changed digitally using a simple computerized interface. The computerized interface also allows for data tracking to determine the efficacy of the treatment.
Overall, this model is a dramatic improvement over the previous one. Most families find it accurate and much easier to use, though some have complained of issues with calibration.
DeVilbiss Vacu-Aide QSU (Quiet Suction Unit)
Children who have difficulty managing their secretions often require a vacuum suction machine to help clear their airways. Many families of children requiring suctioning have used the DeVilbiss homecare suction machine for portable suction.
All suction machines are inherently loud, and the standard version of the DeVilbiss suction machine was notoriously loud. Since suctioning is such a critical need, the fact that the machines sound like a jet plane made it very difficult to meet a child’s needs without interrupting the child and those around him or her.
The new version, the “Quiet Suction Unit,” claims to reduce noise levels by as much as 50%. In addition, it has a new integrated canister design that reduces the number of required parts, particularly the filters, which are now part of the lid.
Families who have used this device do find it quieter, especially at first, though it tended to become louder over time. Families have also remarked that the integrated filter makes the device more difficult to clean, especially since accidentally getting the filter wet renders the device useless.
This model is a step in the right direction, and hopefully future models will become smaller and quieter.
While we cannot predict what equipment will come to homecare next, here are a few possibilities that may become reality in the next few years:
1) Home use of Vapotherm and other high-flow oxygen systems
2) Airway clearance devices that use sound-wave technology, such as the Dymedso Frequencer
3) A newly updated version of the classic LTV ventilator system more in line with CareFusion’s computerized ventilators
4) Wireless pulse oximeters