Patients have a multitude of challenges in the recovery process following surgery. One of the most commonly overlooked is respiratory problems, but the issue afflicts more than 1 million patients every year. At least one study suggests that pulmonary complications can significantly prolong a recovering patient’s hospital stay.

Respiratory struggles following surgery is a problem that healthcare facilities can proactively address. One option is the MetaNeb System, offered by Hill-Rom.

To learn more, Surgical Products interviewed Carlos Urrea, vice president of medical affairs at Hill-Rom.

What can you tell us about MetaNeb?

The MetaNeb System is a lung-expansion therapy that enhances mucus clearance and helps resolve or prevent patchy atelectasis. And it’s really helping do it by mobilizing patients’ secretions.

In addition, MetaNeb is able to provide supplemental oxygen as well as aerosol therapy. MetaNeb does this through three different mechanisms, which are embedded into the device itself. It provides continuous high frequency oscillation, or CHFO. It also provides continuous positive expiratory pressure, or CPEP. And finally, it offers aerosol therapy.

So what MetaNeb really does is enhance lung hygiene and support chest physical therapy. 

(Image credit: Hill-Rom)

It sounds like you’ve tried to develop a system that gets ahead of complications before they arise. Is that accurate?

That’s correct. And it’s providing benefits as both a treatment, and as preventative measure. Most of our previous efforts have been focused on the treatment side of things. But as we’ve talked to our caregivers about their needs, we’ve started to research more in the area of prevention, especially around surgical complications.

Another important aspect of MetaNeb is that it is very functional, in terms of being what we call “patient effort independent.” When you have a patient who has to do respiratory therapy with an incentive spirometer, for example, the patient has to blow into the spirometer, which requires relying on his/her ability to inhale and exhale.

On MetaNeb therapy, the patient is more passive on the therapy. For example, a burn patient or an unconscious patient might use MetaNeb therapy. That’s because MetaNeb can be used a couple of ways. One way is in line with a ventilator and the other way is that patients who are conscious can just use a mouthpiece.

From what you’re seeing, are healthcare providers especially excited about new solutions that are “patient effort independent”?

Anything that either helps the patients or helps the providers deliver the therapy gets a lot of attention. The easier you make it for people to use, whether those people are staff or patients, the more likely it is to be received well. Plus, anything that reduces complications — like MetaNeb does — it always gets a lot of attention.                        

Some of the data that we’ve seen shows that patients who are dealing with atelectasis — which makes them very prone to pneumonia — are able to better mobilize secretions. So they are removed from the ventilator sooner, which means they’re going to get discharged from the hospital sooner.

Making it easier for patients, making it easier for staff, reducing complications makes for a good triad of goals and outcomes.

What feedback are you getting from healthcare providers using MetaNeb? What are they identifying as the key differences when compared against their previous approaches?

We have various patient case studies, all of whom had very compromised lungs, their x-rays looked bad. When they administered MetaNeb therapy in-line with a ventilator, four therapies later — 24 hours later — the lungs looked much better. They look darker – in reference to the way they look in the x-rays – it’s very visual and very powerful.

Our clinicians are seeing that improvement on lung clearance and they’re also seeing an improved ease of use, especially when in line with the ventilator. They’re able to just hook it up and use it.