Water Removal Device to Prevent Ventilator-Associated Illness

helping patients on ventilators and protecting respiratory therapists

Each year, approximately 4 million people are admitted to intensive care units in the United States. Approximately 1 million of these cases require mechanical ventilation, of which 200,000 patients acquire Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP) and 40,000 of these patients die from VAP. Those patients that survive VAP tend to spend more time on ventilation, resulting in longer hospital stays and increased hospital expenses.

Aspiration of water and sputum are the most significant causes of VAP, and it occurs when the water and sputum enter the patient’s lungs. Micro aspirations (small amounts of water and sputum that slip past the cuff of the endotracheal tube) happen whenever the patient or ventilator tubes are moved. Respiratory therapists routinely disconnect ventilator tubes to drain the water and sputum to prevent micro aspirations, but this doesn’t remove everything and the air that escapes from the tube exposes caregivers to potentially dangerous germs.

A research team led by John Farris, Ph.D. (Grand Valley State University) and Eric VanMiddendorp, MSE (Spectrum Health Innovations) has developed a Water Management System (WMS) that reduces the occurrences of VAP by automatically removing the water and sputum from the ventilator tubes without opening or moving the tubes.

“In addition to protecting the patient from Ventilator Associated Pneumonia, WMS will also protect caregivers from germs because they don’t have to manually drain the tubes,” says Farris.

The WMS is a reservoir connected in-line with the ventilator tubing that allows air to pass through while collecting condensed water and sputum. The reservoir can be emptied with a typical syringe during routine patient monitoring without disrupting the ventilator tubing or exposing the clinical staff to the contents.

“The WMS does not change the current workflow,” says VanMiddendorp. “Once it is installed, the system only requires quick draining during routine patient care intervals, so hospital staff have more time to focus on patient care and comfort issues.”

Significant Need

Current procedures for removing water and sputum from ventilator lines involves manually disconnecting ventilator tubes to drain them, but this fails to remove all the condensed water and sputum and exposes clinical staff to potentially dangerous germs.

Compelling Science

The device collects the water and sputum from the ventilator tubes without opening or moving the ventilator tubes.

Competitive Advantage

This device does not require significant changes to the current workflow. It also does not require hospital staff to handle and manipulate the ventilator tubes, which can result in micro aspirations that can be harmful to the patient, and put hospital staff at risk by exposing them to possibly harmful germs.

Overall Commercialization

  • Intellectual Property – Full utility patent application filed for device and method of use
  • Commercialization Strategy – Direct license to strategic partner in the respiratory space
  • Regulatory Pathway – FDA Class I, 510(k) exempt device
  • Product Launch Strategy – Pilot clinical evaluation for efficacy in reducing VAP with early adopter health systems to promote broader adoption


  • Finalize mechanical and industrial design and development of the device
  • Validation of FDA classification and testing requirements
  • Build and test production-intent prototypes
May 21, 2021