Going with the flow: Ottawa-made medical device gaining global attention

Frank Fiorenza
Ottawa respiratory therapist Frank Fiorenza is the inventor of the Flusso, a device that helps keep patients' lungs inflated while they're being transferred off ventilators to other devices. File photo

A made-in-Ottawa invention that allows patients on ventilators to be transported and switched to other equipment more safely and efficiently is poised to hit the global market with help from hundreds of thousands of dollars in provincial grants.

Southern Ontario-based McArthur Medical Sales has received nearly $380,000 from the Ontario Together Fund to ramp up production of the devices, which are manufactured in the National Capital Region at Ottawa Mould Craft and Stittsville’s L-D Tool & Die.

Respiratory therapist Frank Fiorenza invented the plastic tube-like inserts – dubbed Flusso, which is Italian for “fluid flow” – while working at the Ottawa Hospital.

Demand for the devices – which seal the flow of oxygen and keep the lungs inflated while patients are being transferred from mechanical ventilators to smaller transport ventilators or resuscitation bags – has soared during the pandemic, Fiorenza said.

"It’s now become a mission, not just a product."

The flood of orders after COVID hit Canada “broke the system, basically,” he said last year. “We couldn’t keep up.” 

Fiorenza says the device, which retails for roughly $20 a unit, has two main benefits that make it a key tool in the fight against COVID – in addition to protecting health-care workers from potential exposure to infection, it also prevents patients’ lungs from potentially collapsing and suffering even more damage.

“It’s just a project that’s growing to help more and more patients and protect more and more staff,” he said. “It’s now become a mission, not just a product.”

The Flusso, which Fiorenza licensed to McArthur Medical Sales several years ago, can now be found in about 100 hospitals in Canada and 40 in the United States.

The company is investing nearly $800,000 in new equipment that will boost production from 1,200 units a day to 6,000 as it prepares to take the device global later this year. Fiorenza said McArthur expects to announce a partnership next week with an international distributor that will sell the Flusso in more than 80 countries.

Fiorenza said the company hopes to start delivering its first orders to the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar later this spring. It’s also eyeing countries such as Australia, Colombia, Brazil, Japan and Mexico once it gains regulatory approval in those markets, which Fiozenza expects will happen later this year. A move into Europe will likely follow down the road.

“It’s just a matter of eating the elephant one bite at a time,” Fiorenza told Techopia last summer.