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Coronavirus In Minnesota: Hillrom Adapting Respiratory Device To Treat Severe COVID-19 Patients

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A device to help the lungs is being adapted to help some of the sickest COVID-19 patients.

It's called MetaNeb, and the respiratory health division of company that sells it -- Hillrom -- is based in Shoreview.

Saving the lives of patients with COVID-19 and finding what works to treat them is at the forefront for doctors and manufacturers around the world.

Andy Reding, Hillrom vice president and GM of respiratory health, says the company discovered their device has the potential to help. MetaNebs are already in 4,500 hospitals, including most in Minnesota.

"We've known that MetaNeb is a great solution for patients that are in hospital with a heavy secretion burden," Reding said.

MetaNeb is a device typically used on hospitalized patients with pneumonia or those at risk for it. Dr. Carlos Urrea, Hillrom vice president of medical affairs and informatics, says it attaches to any ventilator.

"Ultimately, the intent of the therapy is to help the lungs get clear from secretions, help the lung expand, and that way we support the patient that needs the therapy," Urrea said

Dr. Colin Swenson at Atlanta's Emory University says he's seen success using MetaNeb with COVID-19 patients on ventilators. Where some patients have mucus stuck in small airwaves, compromising ventilation and oxygenation.

Hill-Rom Meta-Neb Ventilator
(credit: Hill-Rom)

"These patients are extremely sick, but we are seeing extubation rates, getting people off the ventilator, much better than the national average, for sure," Swenson said.

He says its critical to share what's working. Emory is now studying how this could improve survival and possibly prevent the need for a tracheotomy for ventilated patients.

"We hope to show that there is a benefit to this technology, and that what we've seen here is not isolated to the region, but is something more generalizable," Swenson said.

Reding says data they've been given shows about 30% of patients have that mucus build-up. Now it's adapting the device to ensure using MetaNeb benefits patients and protects frontline workers.

"Airway clearance therapies create aerosols in the room, which could spread virus for the healthcare professionals. By putting a filter in line with the device, we're able to create sort of a closed loop on that," Reding said.

Hillrom is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on an emergency use authorization to have the addition of the filter approved. And it's ramping up production to be able to mass produce the MetaNeb in anticipation of demand.

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