Take a Breath: Our Review of Three Portable Ventilators

October 25, 2013 | Evaluations & Guidance


Today’s high-end portable/transport ventilators have many of the modes and features previously limited to full-size intensive care ventilators, such as adaptive breath targeting and integrated capnography. This has two clear benefits. First, respiratory therapists can more closely match the ventilation settings and monitored parameters used during transport to what the patient is receiving on the floor, which may prevent a degradation in the patient’s condition. Second, hospitals may be able to use these advanced portable ventilators as overflow devices when intensive care ventilators are in short supply.

The increasing functionality of portable ventilators is matched by the decreasing size of intensive care ventilators, and these two trends are blurring the distinction between the two categories. The Hamilton-C2, which we looked at both in our March 2010 Evaluation of portable ventilators and in our December 2011 Evaluation of intensive care ventilators, is perhaps the clearest example of this convergence. Although it is marketed as an intensive care ventilator, the C2 is only slightly larger than the Hamilton-T1 included in this Evaluation and could be used for transport. Another example of this convergence is the PTV series from CareFusion, which includes the EnVe and ReVel; we evaluate the ReVel in this article. Both units are the same size, have very similar features, and can be used with the same accessories, but the EnVe has a color LCD touchscreen and is marketed as an intensive care ventilator while the ReVel has an interface with fixed buttons and an LED display and is marketed for transport applications.

In this article, we rate the following portable units:

All three of these devices are best suited for the hospital environment. Therefore, we based our ratings on their use as in-hospital transport ventilators, while also factoring in their use as temporary substitutes for intensive care ventilators. All three are also marketed for prehospital transport (i.e., in an ambulance or helicopter), but we did not assess them for use in that environment.

To help compare ventilator modes, we adapted a classification proposed by Robert L. Chatburn. The scheme uses an abbreviation combining the control variable, the breath type, and the targeting scheme. So, for example, PC-CSVs stands for pressure control (PC) using continuous spontaneous ventilation (CSV) with a set-point (s) targeting scheme. For further information on the taxonomy, see the box below;...

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