Army physicians working at hospitals within the Defense Health Agency have prototyped an isolation chamber that can be placed over the head and chest of patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The agency has asked the U.S. FDA for an emergency use authorization, paving the way for rapid implementation to help protect healthcare providers on the front lines of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Airway Management Isolation Chamber (CAMIC) is a barrier device constructed by draping clear plastic sheeting over a box-like frame made of common PVC piping. The chamber captures and removes viral particles emitted from a patient’s nose and mouth using a flow of air or oxygen, which comes in through holes in the piping on one side and is sucked out by a vacuum on the other. Vacuum lines are common features in hospitals, but even if one is not available, a vacuum pump and HEPA filter can be easily connected to the device.

The chamber was invented to supplement standard personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses by creating a safer environment for performing airway management from examination to intubation. Intermediary airway management represents those options a healthcare provider might use prior to intubation. In making these intermediary options safer and more available, the use of the CAMIC may allow patients to avoid the need for intubation altogether.

Among the inventors are Maj. Steven Hong, Cpt. Timothy Blood, and Cpt. Jonathan Perkins at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; Maj. Douglas Ruhl, at Madigan Army Medical Center; Nathan Fisher at the Army’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center; Maj. Charles Riley at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital; and 2nd Lt. Joseph Krivda at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

“Clinicians at both hospitals spent many sleepless nights and weekends toying with designs and testing models,” Ruhl says. “The device can also contain infective particles during other airway treatments, like high-flow oxygen, a nebulizer, or a CPAP, and hopefully decrease the need for ventilators.”

The device was modeled and tested at Walter Reed and Madigan with computer modeling at TATRC. To measure the effectiveness of the invention, smoke was used as a proxy for airborne viral particles and a particle counter was used to measure distribution within and around the prototype. 

In addition to the emergency FDA authorization, the Army has filed two provisional patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “It was impressive to see several DOD departments understand the importance of this concept and make it a priority to help expedite reviews and approvals,” Ruhl says.

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, is seeking U.S. companies and entrepreneurs to review and license the invention for manufacturing from the U.S. Army.

Quinton King, senior technology manager at TechLink, is facilitating the licensing process in direct support of the Army. An emergency use license will be offered to expedite the use of this technology against COVID-19.

“This invention allows intermediary airway management prior to intubation and hopefully avoiding intubation while keeping medical personnel safe,” King says. “Because this device can be produced relatively cheap and fast, we’re hoping this technology can be quickly delivered to those battling COVID-19 at medical facilities around the country and around the world. This technology could help save the lives of patients, and the doctors and nurses treating them.”