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AMA Disaster Medicine Journal Publishes First Comprehensive Look at U.S. Ventilator Supply

AMA journal study finds more pediatric and neonatal capable ventilators than expected

For immediate release:
Oct. 14, 2010

CHICAGO –  In the first-ever comprehensive review of the supply of ventilators in the United States, a new study published today in the American Medical Association Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal suggests that the nation has enough full-feature mechanical ventilators to handle an emergency with similar severity to the 2009 influenza pandemic. During a public health emergency the survival of patients may entirely depend on timely access to life sustaining ventilation, so having an accurate account of the nation's supply prior to an emergency is critical for disaster planning purposes.

The study estimates that there are 62,188 full-feature mechanical ventilators, which is about 20 ventilators per 100,000 Americans. Nearly half (46.6 percent) were found to be pediatric and neonatal capable, which is more than has been previously estimated.

In the study, lead author Lewis Rubinson, M.D., Ph.D., deputy chief medical officer for the National Disaster Medical System states, “This is the first reliable national estimate of mechanical ventilators in the U.S. Planning for mass respiratory public health emergencies can be improved by knowing how many ventilators there are and how they are distributed across the country.”

The study authors surveyed 5,752 acute care hospitals along with the American Hospital Association’s hospital database. Per 100,000 patients, Washington, D.C., and Nevada were found to have the most ventilators for adults, and Washington, D.C., and Nebraska have the most pediatric-capable ventilators. Idaho has the lowest supply of adult ventilators, and Wyoming has the lowest supply of pediatric-capable ventilators. The study also compared the number of U.S. ventilators with the number from other countries including Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and found that the U.S. has significantly more ventilators per person.

In an accompanying editorial, Eric Toner, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, states that, “it is surprising this information was not previously known, but in fact, no attempt to comprehensively count and characterize U.S. ventilators has ever been attempted before.”

“The critical importance of knowing the number of ventilators became apparent following the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2001 anthrax attacks. Federal planners began to consider the number of ventilators needed in the Strategic National Stockpile, the U.S.’s repository of critical medical supplies needed in the event of a national emergency,” said Dr. Toner. 

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Editor’s Note:  To obtain complete online access to the journal, contact AMA Media Relations at (312) 464-4813 and provide appropriate press credentials. The AMA’s Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal maintains editorial independence and the statements and opinions in the journal, including the articles referenced above, are not those of the AMA.

About AMA’s Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal

The AMA Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal was created to promote public health preparedness and the science of disaster medicine.  It is the first comprehensive, peer-reviewed publication emphasizing public health preparedness and disaster response.  The journal is published by the American Medical Association.  An online version can be found on the Web and also is available on the Journals@Ovid platform. Follow the AMA Disaster Medicine and Public Health journal and other AMA news on Twitter.

For more information, please contact:                                 

Leah Dudowicz
AMA Media Relations
(312) 464-4813

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