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New guidelines describe how to use anesthesia machines as emergency ventilators

March 27, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health 


As California prepares for a surge of patients due to COVID-19 cases, ventilation machines are among the items in short supply and high demand. The California Medical Association (CMA) has been working with the California Ambulatory Surgery Association (CASA) and the California Society of Anesthesiologists (CSA) to identify other medical facilities around the state that have ventilation machines that may be able to be repurposed to deal with COVID-19 patients.

This week, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation published guidance on how and when to set up and use anesthesia machines as emergency ICU ventilators.

“Anesthesia machines are equipped with ventilators that in many cases are capable of providing life-sustaining mechanical ventilation to patients with respiratory failure,” the groups wrote in an email. “FDA approved labeling does not provide for using anesthesia ventilators for long-term ventilatory support. Nevertheless, anesthesia ventilators are an obvious first-line backup during the COVID-19 pandemic when there are not sufficient ICU ventilators to meet the patient care needs.”

You can read those guidelines here.

CMA and CASA are still working to take inventory of what supplies may be available to help with the surge. You can fill out our survey here. As Gov. Gavin Newsom works to secure emergency facilities to deal with the surge, determinations are still being made about the possibility of redeploying medical equipment to other locations, or whether facilities like ambulatory surgery centers may be used to house patients during the surge.

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