Four University of Maine bioengineering students have developed a new method of simulating pediatric respiratory distress in medical training manikins to better prepare health care professionals. For their bioengineering senior capstone design project, the students were tasked with creating a pediatric breathing simulator capable of displaying realistic lung and diaphragm movements.
Most current manikins don’t have the ability to simulate lung and abdominal breathing independently. The UMaine model more accurately simulates the breathing of children in critical conditions, including respiratory distress, when they typically only use diaphragm or abdominal breathing patterns.
Manikins designed to show different rates of breathing could potentially allow training doctors and nurses to make a diagnosis based on the breathing pattern, according to bioengineering professor Caitlin Howell, who, along with UMaine bioengineering professor Karissa Tilbury, advised Banton Heithoff of Oldwick, New Jersey; William Breeding of East Granby, Connecticut; Amber Boutiette of Skowhegan, Maine; and Madeline Mazjanis of Portland, Maine.
The students worked in collaboration with alumnus Dr. Denham Ward and Dr. J. Randy Darby of the Hannaford Center for Safety, Innovation and Simulation at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The students are pursuing a patent for their pediatric respiratory simulation prototype. The team won one of two Innovation Awards at UMaine’s 2017 Student Symposium, an annual showcase of undergraduate and graduate student research and creative activity.
At the start of their project, the students were given a full-size training manikin by the UMaine School of Nursing to better understand how to build one. With a $500 budget, the students used widely available materials — stretchable plastics, tubing, fittings and an air compressor — to design a system that can accurately replicate four types of children’s breathing patterns in the lungs and diaphragm.