In 2006 a paper was published; suggesting that in a time of crisis a single ventilator could be used to supply oxygenation and ventilation to a set of patients:
A Single Ventilator for Multiple Simulated Patients to Meet Disaster Surge Greg Neyman, MD, Charlene Babcock Irvin, MD
In this study they experimentally demonstrate on test lungs that on both pressure and volume control mode you can sync up to 4 lungs and deliver reasonable ventilation and pressures required to sustain life -- at least for a couple of hours.
They stack their patients up in PARALLEL. That is; all patients get inhalation at the same time, and exhale at the same time.
A simple figure I drew is here:
They do this using a serial of 3 way junctions.
However, this system only functions if all the patients are supposed to get the same volume or pressure -- specifically they need to have similar compliance (stiffness) and volumes (usually based on their body weight).
People have described this process; and ways to optimize it; even though some societies are recommending against it -- however if the alternative is death I think ICU and ER docs are going to have to be a bit more flexible in the face of guidelines.
Check out EMCRIT's take on it with some FUNCTIONAL thoughts on the process; and counters to guidelines that recommend against it
Also check out the "how-to" guide with parameters from Columbia
Also, some schematics and how-do's done in video format:
However -- I'm going to take a sharp left turn and suggest a completely different way of doing things in another blog.