Andy Hoffer

Professor Andy Hoffer’s newest invention, Lungpacer, promises to improve recovery time for patients on mechanical ventiltors and save on health costs.

‘Lungpacer’ a New Ventures BC winner

October 8, 2009

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A new therapeutic device that will accelerate and improve the recovery time of critically ill patients on mechanical ventilators took third prize ($37,000) in the annual New Ventures BC competition.

The Lungpacer system was conceived and developed by SFU biomedical physiologist Andy Hoffer and is being commercialized via a new SFU spin-off company, Lungpacer Medical Inc.

The device is comprised of intravenously placed electrodes that work to rhythmically activate the diaphragm—a process called pacing—in patients who require a ventilator to survive.

Pacing prevents or reverses the rapid diaphragm muscle-disuse atrophy that is a typical consequence of mechanical ventilation.

"Atrophy and weakness of the diaphragm are main reasons why many patients fail to wean from ventilators and must remain hospitalized, thus increasing their risk for catching hospital-borne infections and causing hospitalization costs to escalate," says Hoffer.

Other diaphragm-pacing systems are unsuitable for fragile intensive care unit (ICU) patients, since they require full anesthesia for permanent surgical attachment of electrodes to nerves or muscle, Hoffer notes.

"Lungpacer’s disposable electrodes are temporarily introduced intravenously with only local anesthesia, and can be easily removed once the patient recovers the ability to breathe independently," he explains.

The minimally invasive Lungpacer system leads to faster patient recovery, shorter stays in intensive care, lower hospitalization costs and greater patient access to scarce mechanical ventilators.

In 2008, mechanically ventilated patients cost the Canadian health-care system $6.1 billion, says Hoffer. ICU patients on ventilation for more than three weeks account for fully one-sixth of total hospital inpatient costs, he adds.

Hoffer’s invention was chosen from more than 175 new business ideas. The increasingly popular New Ventures BC competition was established by SFU Business in 2000.


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