US hospitals are beginning to order helmets to use for noninvasive ventilation for COVID-19 patients, although supplies remain limited.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Hospitals at the University of Pennsylvania and others are ordering helmets.
So far (3/29/2020), only Sea-Long Medical Systems Inc and Amron International Inc. are the only producers of helmets in the US. The Sea-Long company is ramping up production to meet the greater demand but is limiting the number of helmets shipped so “everybody gets some,” owner Chris Austin told The Wall Street Journal.
Amron International Inc., a maker of hyperbaric helmets, tested its product for COVID-19 treatment and believes it is safe, according to Mike Malone, vice president of sales. He told The Wall Street Journal that Amron is starting to take orders.
Massachusetts General Hospital ordered 20 of the Sea-Long helmets but will only receive five, according to the article. The University of Pennsylvania hospital has received 50 helmets and ordered another 200.
Maurizio Cereda, a University of Pennsylvania intensive-care doctor who trained in Italy where helmet use is common, told The Wall Street Journal, “It’s very convenient, something a nurse can manage and can be done on the general floor of the hospital.”
The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency approval for positive-pressure breathing devices to be used in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic, which incorporates helmets for noninvasive ventilation as an alternative device according to a Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers issued March 24, 2020
Noninvasive ventilation via helmet was studied successfully at the University of Chicago. Researchers found patients using helmets improved faster, were less likely to be intubated and had a lower morbidity rate than those using face masks.
Dr. Bhakti Patel, the study’s main author and a pulmonologist at the University of Chicago, said her hospital ordered 100 helmets “for the reality of the time when we don’t have ventilators. We want to preserve ventilators for those who fail the helmet.” They expect 20 helmets this week, according to The Wall Street Journal article.
Helmets used for COVID-19 patients in Europe are made in Italy, but they aren’t exporting them to the US because of the great need there. The Lombardy region in northern Italy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with many patients requiring hospitalization and treatment.
Aurika Savickaite explained the project, HelmetBasedVentilation.com, and its mission to Wall Street Journal reporter Mark Maremont. The site was created to organize information about NIV via helmet and help health care professionals learn the benefits for patients with COVID-19.
We will see these patients on helmet-based ventilation in the US soon. Hopefully, hospitals will receive helmets on time and use them for patients in respiratory distress.