The World of Bubble CPAP

… “Kinikar knew of another method to assist breathing. It’s usually used in newborns with premature lungs.

The infant breathes out into a nasal tube filled with pressurized air. The pressure helps prevent the lungs’ air sacs from collapsing when they’re poorly developed, damaged, or filled with fluid. The method is known as “bubble” CPAP, for continuous positive airway pressure.

The equipment costs around $10,000, but the mechanism is simple. Oxygen flows through tubing to the baby’s nose. The baby then exhales into tubing that’s submerged in a bottle of fluid. Like blowing into a straw, that creates bubbles and pressure—the deeper the tube, the higher the pressure.

Kinikar and her colleagues had patched together a homemade version of this device using a few dollars’ worth of plastic tubing and saline bottles readily available at the hospital. It seemed to work well on premature infants.

Now Kinikar wondered if she could use the same makeshift system to support older babies and young children with flu-related pneumonia. If the technique worked, it might decrease the need for ventilators—and therefore head off the need for rationing.” …

PT is a 2 month old boy with a very severe pneumonia that was placed on bubble CPAP with the help of a functioning and reliable Breath of Life oxygen concentrator.  With the aid of this type of respiratory support, his oxygen levels improved from in the low 70s to high 90s.  Within one day we were able to remove the CPAP support and utilize the oxygen only. He is improving steadily.

infantAIR Video

The expiratory end of this Bubble CPAP is a needle!


Not much information, but a team at University of Wisconsin appears to be working on CPAP, with a focus on preterm infants who have respiratory distress syndrome (RDS).

In the article there is also a link to a video summarizing projects from Northwestern’s Center for Innovation in Global Health Technologies (CIGHT).  There is a discussion of this CPAP project around minute 14.

Preterm infants, however, often also suffer from respiratory distress syndrome with the risk of lung collapse.  Consequently they must be fitted with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices that maintain necessary pressure on the lungs so that the infant can breathe.  But the pressure from the CPAP device itself can cause problems.  Fitted too tightly to the infant’s nose and face, the device can cause pressure sores and even collapse the septum of a delicate newborn.  At that stage, the infant faces painful and expensive reconstructive surgery.

To decrease the occurance of nasal pressure sores and septum collapse in pre-term infants, CIGHT and a Northwestern University senior biomedical engineering team worked to design a visual force indicator that would let mothers and caretakers know when the pressure from the CPAP device exceeded safe limits so they could make adjustments.  The CIGHT prototype uses green markings on the side of the force indicator to mark safe pressures, while a red line shows when the device should be loosened.”

A piece on the team from MIT and RISD working on Bubble CPAP Device.  Includes a link to the slide deck of their final presentation.

Article on several biomedical projects, including this:

Premature babies and newborns with respiratory complications can often benefit from a type of ventilation called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP helps maintain adequate oxygen levels as well as fostering healthy breathing rhythms and lung function in neonates. While a number of CPAP machines are currently available, many babies are born in developing nations where there is no access to oxygen tanks or reliable power from an electrical grid.  These babies need ventilaltion support at least until they can reach the hospital, as much as five hours away.  They need a small, portable, inexpensive CPAP machine. Drew Braucht and Sara Hinds have developed a CPAP machine to address these issues. With  components costing under $100 and an innovative battery-operated pump, their version of this machine holds promise for low-resource health care environments.”

Part of the MANDATE Program: Maternal and Neonatal Directed Assessment of Technology

Inspire is an interdisciplinary group of students from Stanford University that formed in the Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability course.  They are developing an affordable Bubble CPAP device for the developing world.

Website for group developing affordable Bubble CPAP device.

InfantAIR, the team of MBAs taking the Baby Bubbles project forward from Rice University, pitching for funding to take affordable Bubble CPAP forward.