When treating the most serious COVID-19 patients, doctors only want to use a mechanical ventilator as a last resort, for people who are unable to breathe without assistance.

As NEXTpittsburgh recently reported, ALung TechnologiesHemolung device is designed to keep people off ventilators as much as possible. The South Side-based medical device company was seeking — and has just received — Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Hemolung Respiratory Assist System (RAS) to treat COVID-19 patients.

Hemolung. Photo courtesy of ALung.

“With published mortality rates as high as 90% for patients receiving Invasive Mechanical Ventilation (IMV), we believe that the Hemolung can be a valuable tool for physicians to be used in conjunction with IMV, by reducing or eliminating the potential of further lung damage caused by high ventilator driving pressures, often referred to as Ventilator Induced Lung Injury (VILI),” explains Peter DeComo, CEO of ALung Technologies.

Hemolung does not damage the lungs and doesn’t require intubation or sedation. A Hemolung patient can remain responsive, and even move around, talk and eat.

The machine works by removing carbon dioxide directly from the blood. It was designed to help COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) patients. It can be used as an alternative or supplement to ventilators, depending on how the patient is doing.

The Hemolung is currently involved in the FDA-approved VENT-AVOID clinical trial for Acute Exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (AE-COPD). COPD affects 30 million Americans.

“Many of the academic medical centers involved with our clinical trial have already requested the use of the Hemolung RAS for treatment of their COVID-19 patients,” says DeComo.

ALung was founded as a spin-off from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997.