FDA Approves “Patient Isolation Transportation Unit” For Emergency Use

May 26, 2020

The FDA has given emergency authorization to a Fontana-based company to produce and manufacture “Patient Isolation Transportation Units” for use with COVID-19 patients. 

The Patient Isolation Transportation Unit, or PITU, is an enclosure that makes it safer to work with patients with highly contagious diseases.

It’s what’s called a negative pressure isolation enclosure.

Dr. Mark Comunale, head of anesthesiology at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, helped create the enclosure. “So instead of air travelling into the room and out underneath the doors and when the doors open, out the door and all of that, the air travels the opposite way," Comunale says.

"So, air is being sucked into the room underneath the door or when the door opens or what have you. And then basically exhausted through filters to the outside air, so it's cleaned by filters. And so what that does is when a patient coughs or sneezes, basically creates aerosol droplets that contain, in this case COVID-19, the air is flowing into the room and out through a filter. So, the droplets get sucked out and get caught up in the filter and the air that comes out of the room is basically cleaned.”

Bud Weisbart is with AR Tech, the company that created PITU along with Dr. Comunale.

“It's got some significant advantages: it allows a patient to move about inside," Weisbart says. 

"The findings of the FDA were that there's nothing else equivalent to PITU on the market, so it's unique, and it protects the medical personnel working with the patient because it's got arm holes and sleeves that are sealed so that the patient can be treated without exposing the medical personnel to the patient's illness.”

PITU has other advantages, too.

"Family members could visit the patient if they're properly attired, according to what the hospital protocol would be. So it addresses significant issues that have come up. The tragedy of patients dying without having any contact or even last moments with their family. This is something that PITU can address," Weisbart says.

Dr. Comunale hopes to see PITU used in places besides just hospital settings.

“So for example, amusement parks, where there are young children," Comunale says. "And perhaps a child comes to the infirmary at the amusement park, and is diagnosed with measles. Highly contagious. You'd want to get that child isolated as quickly as possible. So places that have large public gatherings might want a few of these devices around in order to quickly isolate people like a child that has measles or has something else that's very contagious. So we see a lot of applications for it.”