A research group from ETH Zurich has developed a system that allows patients in hospital beds to be turned from the supine position to the prone position with greater ease. The development should in particular help treat coronavirus patients. Plans are now in place for a company to manufacture the turning system.



Julian Ferchow is a Doctoral student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and conducts research into product and process development in the area of 3D printing. However, due to the coronavirus crisis, he chose to lay his doctoral thesis to one side and instead formed a 20-strong team of researchers to develop a new solution for hospital settings. The result is a turning system by the name of Proning Taco. This should help to rotate patients in intensive care beds from the supine position to the prone position and vice versa.

Patients suffering from acute respiratory disease must be rotated twice daily in this manner, ETH Zurich writes in a press release. The prone position helps to improve blood flow to the lungs. However, up to now, five healthcare professionals have been needed for this. With the ETH turning system, only three specialists are required for the procedure.

The Proning Taco system involves two nurses wrapping a mattress around a patient in the bed “like a sandwich – or even a taco”, explains ETH Zurich. Finally, they pull the patient towards themselves using straps before turning the patient to lie face down on the other mattress. Meanwhile, a doctor is charged with overseeing the procedure.

An advantage of the turning system is that it is technically simple and cost-effective. The solution has already attracted interest from businesses. In fact, the Basel-based firm OBA AG is now intending to manufacture the mattresses at scale. Moreover, according to Ferchow, the first enquiries from hospitals in Asia have also already arrived.

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