THE UNIVERSITY of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Galveston, is one of seven sites testing an intravascular membrane oxygenator on patients with acute, potentially reversible respiratory failure.
Although the experimental device (Int J Artif Organs. 1989;12:384-389) provides less than half the gas exchange needs of a patient, it may be enough to prevent or significantly reduce lung injury that often results from high pressures and increased oxygen tensions produced by mechanical ventilation, says Joseph B. Zwischenberger, MD, associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, and director of the university's Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Program.
Says Zwischenberger, the intravascular oxygenator or IVOX (Cardiopulmonics Inc, Salt Lake City, Utah) is a "booster lung" rather than an artificial lung for replacing diseased or injured lungs. Studies with sheep suggest that it may be able to provide 30% of a patient's gas exchange requirements. While not enough to replace mechanical ventilation for patients suffering acute respiratory failure, it