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Respir Care. 2017 Sep;62(9):1131-1136. doi: 10.4187/respcare.05443. Epub 2017 May 30.

Development and Testing of a Bubble Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure System.

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University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Respiratory Therapists Without Borders, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
CS Mott Children's Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan.



Neonatal respiratory distress results in > 1 million annual deaths worldwide. Bubble CPAP is a simple, effective, and widely used therapy for infants in respiratory distress. In low-resource settings, more advanced respiratory support is limited by cost, technical expertise, and sporadic electricity. We sought to develop a safe, inexpensive, and simple solution to provide further respiratory support for these infants.


A standard bubble CPAP system was modified to provide 2 levels of positive airway pressure (bi-level positive airway pressure) by attaching a novel device. To demonstrate reliability, the system was run with continuous pressure monitoring on full-term and preterm neonatal mannikins with pressure targets of 8/5 cm H2O and 15/5 cm H2O to simulate 2 different modes of noninvasive ventilation (NIV).


At a ventilation rate set between 30 and 45 cycles/min, by adjusting the leak rate of the device, the following mean pressures ± SD were demonstrated: term mannikin low-pressure NIV, 7.9 ± 0.2/5.3 ± 0.2 cm H2O; term mannikin high-pressure NIV, 15.1 ± 0.1/6.1 ± 0.1 cm H2O; preterm mannikin low-pressure NIV, 7.9 ± 0.2/5.3 ± 0.2 cm H2O; preterm mannikin high-pressure NIV, 16.5 ± 0.4/5.1 ± 0.1 cm H2O.


The modified bubble CPAP system reliably provided alternating pressures similar to bi-level positive airway pressure modes of respiratory support in neonatal mannikins. The dual-pressure technology is a simple, single connection add-on that can readily be applied to existing bubble CPAP systems.


biomedical engineering; international medicine; neonate; noninvasive ventilation


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