With the migration of more medical gas flow/pressure devices into clinics, physicians’ offices, and home care, the portability of test equipment needed to ensure that these devices continue to function as specified by the manufacturer is more important than ever. Traveling biomeds and field service engineers need to cover a lot of territory, and transporting bulky or heavy equipment for testing can slow down the process significantly, wasting precious time and increasing costs.

Ultraportable equipment designed specifically for mobility and functionality is becoming more and more available in the marketplace today. Certain instruments incorporate many of the same qualities as their bulkier, heavier counterparts, and are not only simple to transport but are tech-friendly and easy to use. They often combine the functionality of individual test tools right into one handheld unit.

Typically, biomeds and service engineers perform testing procedures following the manufacturer’s preventive maintenance guidelines step by step. Testing ventilators, for example, includes flow and pressure measurement with calculations for assessing volume, inspiratory and expiratory time, and I:E ratio. The inventory of medical gas flow/pressure devices in any particular hospital or clinic is broad. For example, ventilator testing can include models such as the PB 840, PB7200, Respironics Vistion BiPap, PB PR 2 Respirators, Draeger Evita XL, Savina, Babylog 800+, Sensormedic 3000A high-frequency oscillatory ventilator, Bunnell Jet ventilator, EME Infantflow (CPAP), and Maquet Servo 300, just to name a few. Anesthesia systems can include models such as the Draeger Narkomed2, Narkomed2A, Narkomed2B, Narkomed3, and Narkomed4; and GE/Datex Ohmeda, GS, Aestiva, Aspire, Exel, Modulus II, and Modulus II+.

What we would like to see in all portable testing devices, especially medical gas flow /pressure devices (including ventilators and anesthesia machines), is the ability to evaluate a ventilator the way it is being used on a patient (including the heated humidifier). This would reduce troubleshooting on adult ventilators considerably. The ventilator would be sent down exactly the way it was connected to the patient, and testing would be done without disconnecting or eliminating any connected equipment. A simple connection directly at the patient Y-piece of the breathing system, and the ability to measure flow in both inspiration and exhalation without moving the sensors, speeds assessment of ventilator performance. Testing individual parameters (flow, volume, temperature) by hooking up only the sensor that is most needed at the time would also be extremely helpful for troubleshooting to the root cause of a reported problem. Preprogrammed, selectable gas-density compensation, including custom (user-defined) gas types and selectable correction modes for matching test equipment flow measurement with the ventilator’s own measurement systems, helps ensure accuracy.

In addition, PC software that is compatible with the testing device, combining data collection and control with the ability to electronically save test results, is essential to further streamline the process and make data management effortless and more easily accessible. The ability to save files electronically and easily print them when needed via Windows-compatible printers is a big plus.

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Accurate gas-flow analysis would not be complete without the use of a test lung. This effectively evaluates ventilator performance according to clinical expectations and manufacturers’ specifications. The test lung should allow several selections for resistance and compliance to allow simulation of the disease states and chronic conditions that exist in a particular hospital’s served population. The test lung simulates the mechanical load, which those types of patients present to the ventilator; thus, the performance of the ventilator can be assessed under real-life conditions. Mobility, ease of use, and accuracy are what we look for. Of the units available, the best portable unit is handheld (presenting a “zero footprint”), hung from a cart, or even the ventilator itself.

Troy Peterson is a biomedical equipment technician at St Luke’s Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho. For more information, contact .