A portable life support device that provides critical care in conflict and disaster areas



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A bomb explodes – medical devices are ready to go.

Only in war do both sides of human ingenuity brutally coexist. On the one hand, it creates wounding and killing, and on the other hand, it heals and saves lives. Side by side, but strongly contrasted.

Dr. Joe Fisher is dedicated to the lighter side of human ingenuity, medicine. His research at the University of Toronto Health Network has made major breakthroughs in understanding the body’s oxygen uptake and use. Then, based on the results, he developed new, highly efficient methods of delivering oxygen to patients.

In 2004, together with other doctors and engineers, he created a company to develop solutions based on his innovations. He named it after the Toronto neighborhood where he still lives – Thornhill Medical.

Meanwhile, studies by Dr. Fisher are beginning to come to the attention of the United States Marine Corps. They have been looking for solutions to reduce the use of large, heavy and potentially explosive oxygen tanks that their medical teams transport to military operations sites.

“At the beginning, they asked us if we could prove that it was possible to ventilate patients using much less oxygen,” says Veso Tijanic, director of operations at Thornhill Medical. “We proved it. Then they asked us if we could develop a device for this purpose. Finally, if we could integrate other functions into this device.”

The device is currently saving lives in Ukraine, after Thornhill Medical donated a number of them as well as a mobile MADM anesthesia delivery unit.

These past periods lasted about five years, gradually combining science and technology. This resulted in the first product launched in 2011: MOVES, the innovative Portable Life Support Unit.

This collaboration has also profoundly transformed Thornhill Medical.

“We used to see ourselves as a research and development laboratory, and now we are also a manufacturer of medical devices!” says Tejanik.

While the US Marine Corps began using MOVES, Thornhill Medical continued to innovate. In 2017, it launched an improved version, SLC moves.

Today, the Canadian company employs about 70 employees. It continues to do research and development with its own team and partners around the world, and publishes regularly in scientific journals. sold MOVES SLC around the world and launched two more solutions, MADM And Claire is dead.

MADM It is a portable device (capable of operating in rough terrain) that connects to any breathing apparatus to deliver gas anesthesia. Claire is dead It is a tool – also portable and without electricity – that allows for quick action in the event of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is the most common case of respiratory poisoning, where every second without treatment exacerbates the consequences for the brain and other organs.

Innovative respirator design

Just like these two products, MOVES SLC core is a technology that stems directly from Dr. Fisher’s research in the sciences of breathing. It involves a ventilator that works in a circular circuit: restores oxygen that has expired by the patient, carefully controls its concentration (high FiO2) and redistributes only the strict minimum to the patient.

MOVES SLC operates with much less oxygen than conventional open circuit fans require. That’s so little that a small oxygen concentrator — built into MOVES SLC, which extracts oxygen from the surrounding air — suffices. No need for supplies from large oxygen tanks.

However, the MOVES SLC is more than just an innovative, ultra-efficient ventilator, says Tejanik: “It’s a complete life support device.” In addition to the built-in oxygen concentrator, it also includes suction and several sensors that monitor vital signs and bring them together via a unique interface that can be operated on the device or via a mobile touch screen.

The user can intubate the patient and monitor their ventilation (FiO2, ETCO2, SpO2, ABP, and other indicators) as well as the patient’s temperature (two sensors), blood pressure (internal and external), and a 12-lead ECG. The evolution of these measurements over the past 24 hours can be tracked.

All this, in a device that measures just 84cm x 14cm x 25cm, weighs around 21kg (including swappable batteries) and can be slung over the shoulder.

“MOVES must operate in the middle of military operations, be resistant to vibration, shock and shock, and continue to operate smoothly in sandstorms or in the rain.”
—Veso Tijanik, COO of Thornhill Medical

Adds the COO: “MOVES SLC is no more than 30 percent of the size and weight of conventional equipment—ventilator, condenser, suction, and monitor.” Integrating the various technologies into such a compact, lightweight package was, unsurprisingly, a major challenge for the engineers. Still, not the hardest.

Making medical device components able to withstand extreme conditions will be more complex. “Traditional techniques are designed to work in hospitals,” explains Tejanik. “MOVES must operate in the middle of military operations, be resistant to vibration, shock and shock, and continue to operate smoothly in sandstorms or in the rain, in temperatures between -26°C and +54°C.”

Sometimes, engineers can take existing components and develop protection features for them. Sometimes, they rework them from different markets (oxygen sensors, for example) to integrate them into their devices. In other cases, they had to start from scratch, creating powerful components of their own.

Military grade toughness

Challenge Successfully Overcome: “MOVES is designed to the highest industry standards and is fully tested and approved by various regulatory bodies.” It’s MIL-STD-810G certified, a rugged US military standard, verified by more than twenty different tests (acoustic vibration, explosive atmosphere, etc.).

Hence, the device has been approved for use—not just for transport, but actually for use with the patient—in various helicopters, airplanes, and land vehicles. This makes your crown different. Critical care, such as the one we provide, usually requires specially equipped facilities or vehicles. With MOVES SLC, any venue or vehicle – even civilian – of adequate size, is an opportunity for a treat.”

Thornhill’s fully integrated mobile life support has been used by military medical teams for five years already. The device is currently saving lives in Ukraine, after Thornhill Medical donated a few of them as well as the MADM Mobile Anesthesia Delivery Unit.

In July 2022, the US Army published a report outlining its medical modernization strategy. The 22-page report underscores the need for more lightweight, compact and cost-effective technology. It also mentions the use of artificial intelligence for more self-monitoring of patients’ medical condition. Thornhill explores the angle of artificial intelligence.

“There is not always a qualified expert available everywhere,” explains Tejanik. “The AI ​​can ensure optimal settings for the device, and then adjust them depending on how the patient’s condition evolves.”

Thornhill is also exploring another solution for cases where experts are not immediately available. This past April, MOVES SLC was used in a demonstration to “remotely control ventilators and infusion pumps in support of disaster care.” Seattle-based operators have succeeded in remotely controlling a machine based in Toronto. Thus science fiction becomes science, and it becomes reality.

The Canadian company continues to innovate to heal and save lives in rugged, chaotic terrain and in the most extreme and unpredictable conditions. It is driven by medical and technological advances. It’s also driven by a millennia-old trend: Humans will likely never stop waging war.

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