Analyzing Aerosol Generation with Various Oxygen Delivery Methods

woman wearing a white face mask

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia, can be transmitted through aerosols (airborne). Some patients require a substantial amount of oxygen, so there is concern that advanced therapies such as high flow nasal cannula and non-invasive positive pressure ventilation can aerosolize viral particles which puts healthcare workers at risk.

“Appropriate oxygen therapy to patients while minimizing risk to healthcare workers is debated. Previous studies examining aerosol or droplet formation with high flow nasal cannula or non-invasive positive pressure ventilation have been on mannequins or not quantified the amount of aerosol generated, which limits clinical applicability,” said Nate Gaeckle, MD, assistant professor, Department of Medicine, who is leading this study. “Given the need to protect healthcare workers from exposure to the virus, appropriate thresholds and use of advanced oxygen therapy needs to be clarified.”

Gaeckle is collaborating with Chris Hogan, PhD, professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, whose research focus is on aerosol science. They will evaluate different oxygen delivery devices and flows, and measure aerosol generation from the respiratory tract in healthy people.

They plan to use these results to help design a future trial of subjects with acute pulmonary disease in order to set appropriate flow thresholds for high flow nasal cannula and pressure settings for non-invasive positive pressure ventilation. This will help to mitigate COVID-19 aerosolization.

This project is supported by the UMN Campus Public Health Officer's CO:VID (Collaborative Outcomes: Visionary Innovation & Discovery) grants program, which support University of Minnesota faculty to catalyze and energize small-scale research projects designed to address and mitigate the COVID-19 virus and its associated risks.