come funziona il biocontenimento

In case of transport or treatment of contagious patients, the key for the safety of medical operators is biosafety: a series of biocontainment precautions aimed at the isolation of dangerous pathogens.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this concept was still almost unknown to the insiders. The coming of the pandemic has increased awareness about this and led to a technological development in the industry.

Definition of biocontainment

The term biocontainment is used to indicate methods and procedures, tools and equipment that allow to safely transport and treat those patients who could potentially infect the medical operators with viruses and bacteria.
Biocontainment is therefore a method of isolation to avoid contagion during the transport of infected people or during their care in health facilities. Biocontainment is also required in research laboratories when handling infectious agents.
The biocontainment areas for the treatment or transport of patients are equipped with a system so that the drops emitted through the water vapour are sucked up, passed through filters, purified and reintroduced into the environment.

Permanent spaces such as laboratories feature particular designs, based on the level of safety that must be guaranteed.

Biocontainment can have positive pressure or negative pressure. The first protects from potential external risks and it is often used for patients with immunosuppressive diseases. Negative pressure, on the other hand, prevents the passage of viruses or other pathogens from inside to outside and it is therefore used to protect operators from possible contagion.

Four levels of biocontainment

According to the danger in the surrounding environment, biocontainment is classified into four security levels:

  1. Level 1, when pathogens do not cause disease in healthy adult humans;
  2. Level 2, similar to the first, it is suitable for avoiding the spread of moderate risk pathogens for the personnel and the environment;
  3. Level 3 is used when dealing with agents that can be deadly for humans, but for which there is a cure;
  4. Level 4 is necessary in case of agents with a high risk of airborne infection, which can be lethal to humans and for which there is still no cure or vaccine.

The 5 rules for a good biocontainment system

Which are the main characteristics for a good biocontainment system? We have drawn up 5 essential rules:

  1. A good biocontainment system must have filters of adequate size for the space where it is used and certifications, in order to minimize the risk of dispersion of potentially contagious particles.
  2. It must provide constant monitoring of the preset negative or positive pressure value, at the same time it must be able to compensate for any variations due to external intervention on the patient.
  3. It must be certified according to the regulations in force in the country of reference.
  4. It must be equipped with a power backup system, so as to avoid accidental interruptions of the ventilation system.
  5. The ventilation units must ensure frequent air changes.

What is a biocontainment stretcher?

In the field of biocontainment, it is worth talking about the stretcher for the isolation of contagious patients. Indeed, during the pandemic the number of hospital admissions put the healthcare transport sector under great pressure, with the tragic death of operators.

The biocontainment stretchers have a structure covered with a transparent top and equipped with a battery power system for ventilation and filtration. On the sides of the stretcher there are openings through which the medical staff can intervene on the patient. Being the top transparent, visual contact is also guaranteed. They are usually used in ambulances, to move between hospital departments and for transport by plane or helicopter.

The healthcare crisis drives innovation

The pandemic has also allowed non-professionals to know and understand the importance of health-protection procedures and systems, including biocontainment.
In addition, research has been promoted in many healthcare and medical sectors, in particular those related to technologies for patient safety and transport.
Recent experience must be used for the future, so that it is a stimulus for a growing culture of safety and for procedure organization, as well as for more technologically advanced equipment of medical transport vehicles.

Stem Technology for innovation in medical transport

Biocontainment system installed in the ambulance

Stem Technology for innovation in medical transport

Biocontainment system installed in the ambulance