UNA SOLUCION PARA MEJORAR LA CALIDAD DEL AIRE Y
PROTEGER PERSONAL Y PACIENTES
¿Por qué las salas de UCI necesitan Portascanner COVID19? y que soluciones aportan.
Regardless of the ‘air quality’ within an ICU ward,
minimising the airflow out of it is essential for
reducing the risk of airborne contagion spread.
One way this is achieved is through minimising
the air permeability of a room, another is by
negatively-pressurising a room which in itself
cannot be effectively achieved without a
suitably low air permeability value. Minimising
air permeability is therefore doubly essential.
Air permeability is defined as the volume
of air entering or exiting a room per hour per
square metre of room envelope given a certain
differential pressure, usually taken to be 50 Pa
(Pascals are a unit of measure for air pressure).
Currently, when hospitals monitor the
efficacy of their negative pressurisation, they
do so using a pressure monitor. This tells
hospital staff, providing they are checking
it regularly, whether the air pressure in the
ICU ward is at a suitable level. If the pressure
drops below a certain level, sometimes these
monitors are set up to an alarm system.
There are three problems with this:
• One is that the indication of the current
pressure is not an indication of future
ability to maintain that pressure.
• Secondly, if the pressure does drop, no
matter how infrequently, it undermines
the ability of the ward to prevent
airborne infection spread and the
pressure monitors provide no means of
addressing that problem. If hospital staff
do take action as a result of pressure
drops, it is often to employ what might
be called a ‘Patch & Hope’ response.
• Thirdly, pressure monitors only measure
the air pressure at a localised point in
space. If the correct air pressure is found
in one part of a room, this is no guarantee
that it may be found elsewhere.
The hand-held, ergonomic Portascanner®
COVID-19 instrument provides a capability
that compliments and goes far beyond
what a simple air pressure monitor can do.
It allows operators to detect leakage points,
meaning that they can be addressed to
prevent dips in the required pressurisation
which regularly occur. It also quantifies the
airflow rate through leakage points and the air
permeability of a room, providing surety that
the room is sufficiently airtight for the FPE (Fan
Pressurisation Equipment) to operate consistently.
Pressure monitors cannot do these things.
According to an independent review by the
Building Services Research and Information
Association, reducing the air permeability of an
isolation suite has a number of distinct benefits:
• A degree of passive protection is
provided against contamination
to or from adjacent areas.
• The ventilation system is able to be
balanced and commissioned correctly.
• The pressure stabiliser can be specified
accurately and can operate correctly.
• During fumigation, less fumigant
will escape to adjacent areas.
• In the event of fan failure, the walls will
become the first barrier against infection.
• If the leakage through the fabric is too
high, the design supply and extract airflow
rates may not be sufficient to pressurise
the rooms or for the pressure stabiliser
to operate correctly. Making up for high
air permeability by increasing supply
and extract flow rates is not considered
desirable. A better option would be
to achieve lower air permeability.
An ICU ward is therefore far safer in terms of
risk of infection spread, if the air permeability
of its envelope can be quantified and if crucial
leakage points can be identified and repaired.
It is for this reason that Coltraco Ultrasonics
won the right to a competitive government
grant to innovate in this area and for this
reason too that the end product has been
independently declared outstanding in its field.
A recent paper collating 24 cross-sectional
studies across eight separate countries has
found that significant levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA
particles were circulating in the air within 25
per cent of ICU wards, 24 per cent of hospital
toilets, and 56 per cent of hospital hallways.
Hospitals, therefore, present a huge risk of crossinfection via airborne transmission. The most
effective way to prevent airborne transmission
from isolation wards is to ensure they are
adequately negatively-pressurised at all times;
the fact that these statistics exist, however,
suggests that negative pressurisation, which
might be taken for granted by hospital staff
and monitored using pressure gauges, is in
actuality not effectively achieved in a significant
proportion of facilities, at least some of the
time. This is why the Portascanner® COVID-19,
as the only reasonable solution to a problem
that some, but not all, are aware of, is such a
breakthrough technology in reducing airborne
cross-infection within the hospital sector.
The ‘Patch & Hope’ Problem
In March 2020 the world was forced to stop,
readjust, and overcome the barriers this virus
has inflicted upon us all. Whilst it has sadly
been a tragedy for so many people, businesses,
households, and livelihoods, it has by no means
stopped great British ideas, ingenuity, and
innovation. The 5.9 million UK SMEs, which
make up 99 per cent of all business, generating
54 per cent of all UK employment, have
demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face
of such adversity, and are at the forefront of the
government’s Levelling-Up agenda in the postCovid-19 world that we are all so looking forward
to. The NHS went into this crisis with 10,000
ICU beds. Today it is managing over 30,000.
Our NHS are struggling to bear the brunt
of this virus, and the staff should not also
have to constantly concern themselves with
the risks of being additionally exposed to
the virus. Existing taping measures are not
allowing this concern to be allayed. In Intensive
Care Units (ICU) the NHS has to ‘negativelypressurise’ each ICU Ward to prevent COVID19
infection contagion to the rest of the hospital.
However, if the air permeability of ICU Wards
is not sufficiently low, negative-pressurisation
cannot be achieved effectively. The methods
presently being undertaken to verify air
permeability, are disruptive, costly and do not
allow operators to identify specific areas of
leakage. The maintenance teams have limited
means to monitor the airflow that sustains
that negative-pressurisation or identify the
location and size of any specific leaks, leaving
any remedial action down to mere speculation.
So limited are these means that NHS personnel
are forced to adopt an approach that can
only be described as ‘Patch and Hope’.
What is the solution?
Our Portascanner® COVID-19 brings a noninvasive answer to this ‘patch and hope’
measure, and with minimal training, allows ICU
personnel to locate and then quantify the leaks
in hospital wards. The user can calculate the air
flow rate through these leaks, generating an air
permeability value for an entire ICU ward which
the user can compare against the required value
for negative pressurisation. Quantifying the
extent of the leak, or the air permeability rate,
is crucial to ensuring negative-pressurisation in
order to help prevent the spread of disease.
During Covid-19 maintenance of the ICU ward
has never been more important, and this new
hand-held instrument significantly improves the
efficiency and air quality of the room, providing
confidence in ability of a ward to contain
the virus. Furthermore, it saves considerable
time and resources in preventing FPE (fan
pressurisation equipment) from being installed
within an unsuitable room. The downtime
required for existing test procedures is simply
infeasible given the disruption to treatment this
would cause in ICU wards. So, through using
ultrasound, this innovation ensures minimum
disruption to any room or facility, lending more
time for the staff to treat their patients.
Go above and beyond compliance
According to BSRIA³, the air permeability of a
negatively pressurised isolation ward must not
exceed 2.5m³/(h-m²) at a reference pressure
of 50 Pascals. It is this value that is used in
the reporting feature of the Portascanner®
COVID-19. The user can provide evidence of the
maintenance programme, through the camera
feature, and with the tap of a finger, export a
test report, all in one small portable instrument.
Each leak is therefore marked and quantified in
terms of the air flow rate, and its contribution to
the total air permeability. This is then calculated
and compared to the threshold value, whilst the
cross-sectional area of the leak is also recorded.
No third party is required, and all the user has
to do, is a quick test, scanning any possible leak
sites with the receiver, whilst the generator is
directed at the structure from the opposite side.
Any peaks in the received intensity should be
marked as a leak for potential investigation and
remedial measures undertaken if necessary. A
full test is then carried out to decipher the leak
size. Sufficient airtightness is required to facilitate
good ventilation and filtration practices, so that
‘safe working’ conditions be achieved, which
is at the heart of improving the ‘health’ of a
building. This simple instrument can be used
regularly by in-house maintenance teams when
required, with no disruption, enabling leaks
to be detected and remedied as they occur.
Overcoming a global pandemic
Coltraco Ultrasonics have proudly developed
Portascanner® COVID19 from its rich
heritage in Naval ultrasonic technologies
to monitor watertightness in warships and
submarines. At the beginning of 2020, we were
predominantly a two-market sector company.
However, in March we realised the vulnerability
that this posed, and the possible opportunity
for change. So, through great diversification
we are now a multi sectoral one, working
across 28 different sectors, delivered by an
exclusive global distribution network.
One of these new sectors that we are most
proud to support, is the healthcare sector. During
the coronavirus crisis, Coltraco Ultrasonics worked
tirelessly to fulfil a UK-Government funded
Covid-19 emergency technology requirement in
June 2020, to design the Portascanner® COVID19, which we have now successfully done, with
our first prototype completed in 20 weeks,
created by a team of British Physicists working at
the cutting edge of compartmentation integrity.
Helping our NHS build
resilience and security within
Our primary aim with this exciting new
technology, is to support our NHS: to protect
the lives of both our staff, and patients. The
Portascanner® COVID-19 is based on the
technology of our award winning globally
recognised Portascanner® WATERTIGHT,
an ultrasonic watertight integrity monitor
used by our Royal Navy, which has been redesigned specifically for our NHS hospital
ICU wards. It aims to reduce the spread of
airborne disease by inspecting rooms for
any leakage and establishing the negativelypressurised airflow rates that, unless identified
can place staff and patients at risk.
A December 2020 study on Covid-19 and air
contamination indicates that 56 per cent of air
samples taken from hospital hallways and 24 per
cent from hospital bathrooms, have high levels
of coronavirus (JAMA Network Open). Samples
from ICU rooms were more than twice as likely to
be positive, at a rate of 25.2 per cent compared
to 10.7 per cent for non-ICU rooms. There is
evidently a pressing need for the virus to be
contained. In order to reduce the spread, Hospital
ICU wards rely on negative-pressurisation, and
only when this state is achieved, can there be
a reduction of airborne infectious diseases.
NHS Hospitals have ‘infection targets’ and
Portascanner® COVID19 help them achieve these
Why we Designed
In June 2020 the government invited us to
support their Emergency COVID19 Technology
award and design this unique solution.
During the height of the pandemic, every
Thursday evening the moving sound of our
Clap for Heroes’ would resonate, as we all
applauded and showed our appreciation for
our NHS. 2020 highlighted just how much
we rely on our unique healthcare system.
At Coltraco Ultrasonics, we were simply
fortunate enough that we could put our heads
together, and realise that we could play our
small part in supporting our NHS, from within
their very walls. This Emergency Covid-19
Technology grant enabled us to develop a
technology to assist with problems relating
directly or indirectly to this pandemic. We realised
we could contribute to the prevention of the
spread of airborne pathogens, and thereby
significantly reduce the contamination between
wards, which also includes harmful substances
such as bacteria, gases, chemicals etc. In our
research we have been able to measure to a high
accuracy holes as small as 0.5mm in diameter.
Coltraco Ultrasonics have 30 years’ experience
of designing and manufacturing world leading
ultrasonic equipment, and have been able
to apply our technological expertise in this
area to provide a unique and optimal solution
to a new critical problem in our world.
Applying ultrasonics to this new
application has never been done before.
This will allow the first means of reliably
and conveniently testing a key requirement
for effective negative pressurisation. We are
proud to be able to present a solution, to
improve air quality and protect our NHS’s
staff and patients against the spread of
airborne diseases, such as SARS-CoV-2.
Whilst this past year has proved an
insurmountable obstacle to overcome for
so many, there is now light at the end of
the tunnel, that through innovation and
collective unity, we can all come together
and rebuild stronger than before.