Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) is a life-saving tool used throughout ICUs to manage respiratory failure. The traditional form of non-invasive ventilation, a tight-fitting mask placed over a patient's nose and mouth, comes with significant drawbacks. What if there was an option to treat patients with respiratory failure that improved outcomes while reducing the likelihood for invasive intubation?
Today on the show, we speak with Aurika Savickaite about an FDA-approved alternative—helmet-based ventilation—that improves patient outcomes with its future forward design, has already been used in Italian hospitals for over 20 years, and played a significant roll in saving the lives of COVID patients.
About Aurika Savickaite and HelmetBasedVentilation.com
Aurika Savickaite is the founder of HelmetBasedVentilation.com, a Registered Nurse, Vision Circle member at Space for Humanity, and holds an MSN from Rush University College of Nursing. Aurika studied the benefits of helmet-based ventilation and played an integral role in a three-year trial at the University of Chicago that successfully tested the helmet ventilator. Her Master's capstone project at Rush focused on non-invasive positive pressure ventilation based on her experience with the helmet. She is a passionate advocate for improving patient outcomes and founded HelmetBasedVentilation.com, a MedTech startup with the aim of training healthcare professionals on this technology, sharing knowledge, and contributing to the fight against COVID.
Aurika Savickaite | LinkedIn:
U of Chicago | Helmet-based Ventilation News: https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/patient-care-articles/helmet-based-ventilation-is-superior-to-face-mask-for-patients-with-respiratory-distress
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Welcome everyone. Thanks for joining us on From Lab to Launch today. I'm Kelly from Qualio and your host on the show. If you haven't already please subscribe and give us a review on Apple or Spotify. Also if you want to be on the show, fill out the application linked in the show notes. We've had a lot of people reach out from all over the world, and we love connecting with you. We love stories of innovators who solve problems with creative thinking. Today's guest Aurika Savickaite is a Registered Nurse and has been championing helmet-based ventilation. We'll let her share how she got involved in that, but helmet-based ventilation is a great alternative compared to intubation and face masks, which each have their drawbacks. She actually has a great infographic comparing the different ventilation options that we'll link to in the show notes. Helmet-based solutions had a big impact during COVID-19. And we'll get into that as well. All right. Thank you, Aurika for joining us today. Really appreciate your time.Aurika Savickaite:
Thank you Kelly, for having me here and happy to share my story. And I hope it's going to reach a lot of people around the world and we will learn something new that there's actually a lifesaving device.Kelly Stanton:
It is indeed. So tell us how you got involved in helmet based ventilation.Aurika Savickaite:
So as you mentioned, I'm a registered nurse. Actually I'm also a nurse practitioner. So I was studying at Rush where I finished the master's in science and nursing degree. And in 2014, I worked at the University of Chicago, a hospital in the medical ICU and during that time, Dr. Bhakti Patel started a study where she used the helmets to provide non-invasive ventilation for patients in ERDS. So ERDS is an extremely acute disease that the. patients usually end up on a ventilator and to recover from it is a very long process. So what she did, she actually used the face mask for one group of patients and then used helmets for another group of patients. And during that time, like I said, I was working as a registered nurse there. I was also a patient care manager and saw these patients during the study and when I was studying, at Rush for my Master's degree. I did choose to write the capstone paper about the patients who use the helmet for non-invasive ventilation. So again, that's most, all the way back there. Then in 2014, 15, and the paper got published in 2016 and everybody was amazed to see such great results for the patients who used helmets Then nothing really happened in U.S. because helmets usually are used in Italy. They've been used there over 20 years. And the reason why is because we didn't have so many intensive care units at that time. So physicians were looking for something easy to apply for the patient and something that anyone can manage to prevent anyone to get on a ventilator or get to the ICU. And this is where we saw a huge benefit of the helmet. So it's been, used like I said, over 20 years and that's where the idea came from to use it in United States. The study was done, published in JAMA paper, very well taken by all the other colleagues. And then in 2020, when the pandemic started, this is when my husband and I decided to spread the awareness about helmets. And the actually let the physicians know that this device is available in the U.S. and can be used for COVID patients. Also his sister helped us to set up the PR set up the website and like you mentioned the infographics, which are so easy to read and, for anyone who's seeing helmet for the first time, info graphic is a good tool to use to understand what is it for and how it benefits the patient. So this is when we started the helmet based ventilation that come and the finally in the. August of 2022 helmets were approved by the FDA to be used for patients in ICU settings in United States. So that was a huge achievement. So during that time, what I did, I actually connected with a lot of manufacturers. Connected with medical engineers who were designing helmets and make and starting to manufacture them actually in United States. So it was a very interesting time. I really recall like it happened yesterday when I talked with NASA team who also developed the helmet you know, I gave them my feedback based on my medical experience with these helmets. So it's a really interesting connections, interesting people that I met and I'm still doing it. So right now I have course that can teach all the clinicians talking about respiratory therapists, nurses, and physicians about this very simple device that will help them actually to you know, to shorten that learning curve. Because as you know, even if it's so easy and comfortable thing to use, you still have to learn right. That's very exciting. For those who don't know, can you explain a little bit about how helmet-based ventilation works and how it's different from traditional ventilation methods? So, as you probably know, already noninvasive ventilation been used for many years. And what we are doing, usually we putting the face mask on the patient. So the face mask is just covering your nose and the mouth, and then the machine, it can be ventilator or a BiPAP machine. It actually blows the air into your mouth and your face and nose. And this helps the patient to increase the amount of air that we can breathe in and also prevents the lungs to collapse when patient is exhaling and face masks everybody knows, when you usually, if you see anyone on the noninvasive ventilation, this is what you see: a patient with the face mask. Now, the helmet looks a little bit different well, as you know, it's a helmet, so definitely, it, it covers the whole head but the nice thing about the helmet is that nothing is touching the face. All right? So you creating that seal around the patient's neck. So just imagine like a turtleneck, so this nice soft silicon seal around the patient's neck prevents any air to escape. And again, you increasing that air pressure in the helmet, and it's usually oxygenated air with the pressure and that same pressure from the helmet ends up in your lungs. So that again, it helps your lungs to stay more open and prevents from collapsing. And this is very important for patients who have any inflammation in the lungs because when the lung tissue is inflamed, when it collapses, it's very hard to open it up and what happens, you actually losing that lung surface that is so important for the gas exchange. And this is where the other problems will start. This is where you need more oxygen for the patient where you need to ventilate them faster. So to prevent from any complications and to give that patient more time to heal or more time for other therapies to start working, this is when noninvasive ventilation is very helpful. And then definitely if you see that nothing is helping, you will end up intubating the patient and it's connected to the mechanical ventilation. And the difference now, like I said, between the mask and a helmet is that helmet is not, nothing is touching the patients face. With the face mask to create that seal that I was telling before that in the helmet is around the neck, with the face mask, you have to actually push it against the face. And it is very painful, especially if you holding it for more than eight hours, some patients end up failing non-invasive ventilation, not because of breathing issues, but because of that facial pain. Also patients develop the skin necrosis or skin breakdown where the face mask is touching the face. And, you know, if you, if you apply all physics and you know, pathophysiology. And everything, we know that, unfortunately, there is no way we can create the face mask that is perfect. Just because that pressure, no matter you know, what kind of material you will use still, the pressure is not gonna go away. That what will cause this skin breakdown. So this is why helmets comes in to help these patients to use non-invasive ventilation for longer periods of time. That means we have better chance to recover without getting intubated. And also it doesn't matter now what shape of your face is. It doesn't matter if you have facial hair, because, you know, with the face mask, if you're going to try to put that on a person who has a beard, it's going to be a lot of air leak or all the patients, especially who are much thinner, have less the subcutaneous tissue in their face. And then also many of them are missing teeth. So again, to put that face mask on these patients, it's going to be very tough. Also I heard some surgeons are using for their patients who had facial surgeries and who have some issues with breathing after surgery. So again, application is very wide in Italy. Like one of the first studies that we published about helmets was where they used it in the ambulance. So again, that tells you how easy it is for the patient and for the operator in this case paramedics to apply a noninvasive ventilation in an ambulance. So that's the benefit of the helmet.Kelly Stanton:
Definitely. And in the, in the age of COVID, I would imagine too the protection for the ambulance technicians, right. If you're bringing somebody in and think maybe they have COVID, there's some protective element to them too, because it's able to contain the exhale breath better.Aurika Savickaite:
Yes. You, you said it right Kelly. Because of what happens when you don't have that air leak around the neck seal, right? On that expiratory port of the helmet, again, the helmet has two ports. One is inspiratory. That's why you have that oxygenated air coming through and then expiratory port, this is where you apply a filter. So antibacterial antiviral filter, that's going to filter out the pathogen that patient has, in this case we can talk about COVID and also applies the PEEP valve. So this PEEP valve, this is a device that you can set the pressure. That pressure that I was talking about that will help to keep this lens open when patient exhaled.Kelly Stanton:
Exciting. So to continue on the whole COVID topic then how did the, the helmet based ventilation go as far as adoption progress changes that were made, et cetera, during COVID?Aurika Savickaite:
It's been now what over two years and the some countries adapt helmet faster than others. And I'm learning why. I'm not sure if that's really the main reason, but I noticed the the countries who don't have so many intensive care units may really care about noninvasive ventilation early in patients who have COVID. So they apply helmets, a C-PAP therapy as soon as possible. And that gives them a better chance to avoid intubation and to avoid ICU. So that helps also to save ventilators for patients who really need it. Like I said, helmets can be used without the ventilator. I don't know if I mentioned, but you can just apply simple gas flow or Venturi device. And the, here we go, you have a noninvasive ventilation without using any machine. So those countries like for example, in Brazil, they also developed their own helmet. They used a lot to transport patients from the periphery to the cities to bigger hospitals. And the adaptation was really high. And the response from physicians was great. In India, they also using helmets now. And only positive feedback from the physicians. In South Africa, they are you using helmets. And in Europe now, not just Italy, but also Spain, France, UK, Portugal, Sweden, Lithuania, other countries are adapting this interface. Another thing is to to mention is that the first year of COVID, the Italian government actually prohibited any export. Because of main helmet manufacturers are in Italy unfortunately a lot of countries were not able to get this device. And the, now when I'm thinking about, I think it's a. It did a little damage to the awareness of the helmet based ventilation. And the also because these helmets are such a high quality, they also have great teams behind the helmet who can teach these physicians to use it for the first time and succeed faster. So right now, these helmets are available all around the world, including U.S. It's FDA approved. So, I think it's like at the second wave where the helmet, awareness and all also adaptation is going to be on the rise.Kelly Stanton:
That's exciting. How do you see this technology evolve in the next five, 10 years?Aurika Savickaite:
As I mentioned. First time I saw how much in 2014, so we didn't have COVID then. Every time now I talk about the helmet, I always say for COVID and non-COVID patients. So I can see it's going to be adopted slowly, but we will see more and more helmets around the world. And it will depend also on these physicians, clinicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, we need more champions who are not afraid to use something that is so simple. And that works. One thing I also realized during that time, I lived in a little bubble because of what happened. I worked at University of Chicago medical ICU, you know, all the university hospitals are very proactive. And they are always doing some type of studies, we are always exploring other options out there, other innovations and trying to adapt that. So this is what I was thinking that all other hospitals in the U.S. will do the same. Unfortunately, no, you still need a really strong team behind any new device that you wanted to adapt in a new in your facility because education is a must. And that's again, I learned that many times when even I do any training via zoom, I can tell that no one read and, you know, it's it's just very disappointing, but at the same time, we know that there is a lot of workload for clinicians at this moment. And you know, the burnout for clinicians is on the rise. And I totally understand that to start to learn something new is very hard. It's very time consuming, but what I want to say, the helmet actually, when you start to use it, it's going to save you more time. And I'm talking about all the clinicians, respiratory therapists, nurses, and the physicians. And for the benefits that I mentioned before, a patient can stay or use the non-invasive ventilation without interruption, only minimum interruptions can be done. And as a nurse, I know how much time it takes to reapply that face mask on a patient. Every time you do the oral care, suction patient, or give them food, where with the helmet, you know, has a special patient access ports. When you get to the patient's face to provide the patient care, you just close the port then it deflates in the second. So that saves you a lot of time. So again, the physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, they spend a lot of time on managing non-invasive ventilation. So this is where helmet interface can actual actually lower that workload.Kelly Stanton:
And we could all use a little bit of that time back that's for sure. You know, it's interesting. We've had several nurses on the show who are inventors and entrepreneurs as well, which totally makes sense because nurses are at that point of care and interacting with patients, you know, probably more than clinicians, if we're honest. How do you think that nurses can get more involved in the innovation and feedback process of healthcare?Aurika Savickaite:
Well, I feel like. In the us and nurses have very strong words. I dunno if you have a chance to read my whole bio, but I came from Lithuania and I worked as a nurse in Lithuania before coming to United States. And it's like a day and a night. The differences are a huge, how nurses are independent profession from clinicians, we collaborating with other professions in the medical field and we have very proactive. We can do studies, we can you know, create our protocols. So in U.S., I feel, it's it's happening as we speak a lot. Now is the question, will the other hospitals adapt what the, their colleagues already did in other hospital and learn that it works? Again, not always we have to reinvent the wheel, but I feel like sometimes before you use more of innovation that is out there, we actually, and and we have a better imagination and we may, you know, develop something new out of it. So it's always on a progress. So again, if you don't have something new to apply at your work, at your facility, see what others are doing. Try to follow them and you never know what's gonna come out of this. You may notice something, some problem that you will know the answer to. And here we go, you are entrepreneur. And at the same time you saving patients and the, you know, improving the nursing care.Kelly Stanton:
If you could go back and tell yourself something at the start of your career, what would that be?Aurika Savickaite:
Well, what I knew already that I'm going to be a nurse since I remember myself. So there was no question about definitely. And I feel like I did a lot of good steps in my life and per year to be where I am. And also back in 2014, when I chose a patient and the helmets for my capstone presentation, I think that was a very bold move because when I did that presentation, a lot of people were very skeptical and the why not. So again, put yourself out of that comfort zone, as much as you can. Definitely, you want to educate yourself and do the research to make sure that you know what you're doing. So, I would say to myself, I could put myself out of that comfort zone more often in the past. So, yeah, that, that would be maybe one of the advice.Kelly Stanton:
Oh, that's, that's exciting. And, and that is interesting. Talk about a divergence in your path, but what a great one. Where can people go to learn, more follow along, and connect with you?Aurika Savickaite:
So HelmetBasedVentilation.com. I use a website that has a lot of educational material. Also it's a blog. So I always post any news or any interviews that I have and all the contact us page. I will always look at the emails and follow up. Also I'm on LinkedIn as Aurika Savickaite, this is where you can find me and the Facebook. These are the main platforms that I'm using right now.Kelly Stanton:
Awesome. Thank you, Aurika, so much for your time. It's been fascinating hearing about your journey.Aurika Savickaite:
Thank you very much, Kelly.