50 air cushion kits developed jointly by Michelin and the Amiens-Picardie University Hospital are now available in the intensive care units of four French hospitals. Leveraging agile development with a startup approach.

Four months after development began in collaboration with the Amiens-Picardie University Hospital, Michelin has supplied the intensive care units of four French hospitals with 50 air cushion test kits. The cushions are currently being tested in two public hospitals in Paris (Pitié-Salpêtrière and Beaujon), as well as the Amiens-Picardie and Clermont-Ferrand university hospitals (Estaing and Gabriel Montpied units).

ntended for patients suffering from respiratory distress (in a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator), the new air cushions mean patients can be treated in prone position (lying face down) for better ventilation of the lungs. The kits also improve patients’ comfort and prevent pressure sores from developing on their chest, pelvis or face.

As early as March, Michelin was quick to mobilize several task force teams in response to an appeal from cardiac surgeon Dr. Gilles Touati from the Amiens-Picardie University Hospital, working in agile cooperation to meet urgent needs.

We were confronted with the problem of patients in respiratory distress who had to be ventilated in a prone position on their stomach if there was to be any hope of improvement. However, placing patients in a face-down position caused serious pressure sores which meant the treatment sometimes had to be stopped. I didn’t think long and hard but what immediately came to mind was an inflatable structure made up of different modules for different parts of the body (head, chest, pelvis and lower limbs) and I sent a message to Michelin. I got an instant reply and their responsiveness was remarkable!
Dr Gilles Touati, CHU Amiens-Picardie

Michelin tackled this new project by immediately forming a team of six, bringing together R&D expertise from a range of sectors (textiles, plastics, modeling) and input from an innovation lab to provide a design thinking, iterative and customer-centric process for the project.

The Michelin team then spent time at SimUSanté®, Europe’s largest healthcare simulation and training center, which is part of the Amiens-Picardie University Hospital. There they tested the apparatus in realistic conditions, including using equipment and techniques on instrumented dummies or simulated patients outside of an actual patient care environment. This key step allowed them to develop a prototype.

The air cushion kits are made up of seven modular components that can be arranged to suit different patient morphologies. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be inflated to varying degrees to accommodate a patient’s chest size and other fragile parts of the body. Two patents have recently been filed.

Thanks to this development – which was completed in a very short space of time through regular video-conference meetings – several prototypes were created and tested on patients in order to obtain an extremely advanced modular structure that allowed us to reduce and even eliminate pressure on different parts of a patient’s body as well as the risk of sores. It also helped to improve mechanical ventilation, which was unexpected and another excellent benefit.
Dr Gilles Touati, CHU Amiens-Picardie
Our critical care resources have been disrupted and overwhelmed by the current health crisis, and this productive collaboration with Michelin has allowed us to develop versatile alternatives to the equipment we use for patients in acute respiratory distress who need to be kept lying face down.
Dr. Thomas Godet from the Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital
All of these initiatives, sponsored at the highest level of the Group and driven by the commitment of various teams determined to put their support and expertise to the best possible use in the race against time, are another reflection of the importance Michelin places on people and their health and well being. It's one of our fundamental values. The development of these air cushion kits also highlights Michelin’s capacity for innovation and the potential bridges that exist between tire manufacturing and a multitude of other sectors like the healthcare industry for example.
Philippe Jacquin, in charge of the task force and Director of Development for Two-Wheel and Automotive Tires at Michelin

This program to develop air cushions is yet another example of Michelin’s initiatives to fight the pandemic, alongside reusable masks, 3D-printed components for artificial ventilators and production of protective visors.

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