So many people have asked this question that I decided to summarize the information to make it easier to choose between the three systems. What makes this a bit trickier is that all of the air pulse units look almost identical. The only visual cue is that the model 105 has a ‘105’ logo, the Model 205 the ’205′ logo on the front while the model 104 has no logo. Another way to tell the difference is to look on the OEM sticker on the back of the unit. If that information should has been removed, look at the serial number, if available. The Model 104s start with the prefix 41- or 42- while the 105s start with 61- or 62-. The Model 205 has serial numbers starting with 51-.
The Hill-Rom Vest Airway Clearance System Model 104 was developed by ABI which was acquired in 2002 by Hill-Rom. Both the Model 104 and 105 use the same basic mechanism to generate air pulses based on the original patent. An internal diaphragm motor generates air pulses which are dampened by a set of rubber baffles. An air blower maintains positive pressure and makes up for air loss from the vest garment.
The model 104 was a major advancement from the model 103 which was a big, bulky unit that worked well as long as it was stationary. The unit weighed about 45 lbs and was difficult to ship, nonetheless carry with you if you had to travel. They are still in use in some clinical care settings today. The very early 104s made by ABI used rubber baffles that eventually succumb to cracking. We therefore stay away from these early units and give the 104s some extra scrutiny to prevent our customers getting a unit that will eventually need new baffles.
Users can program 3 variables: oscillation frequency (5-20Hz), force (1-10) and duration of treatment (in minutes). The 104 interface speaks one language, English. The 104 air pulse unit really does not like run without a vest attached to it. To prevent over speeding, there is a pressure sensor. If this sensor indicates that there is insufficient pressure, it will stop the motor and indicate an error. This can be quite frustrating and may requite uploading new software.
The 104 is an excellent value at around $ 1700. It is the least expensive device and there are units with over 1500 + working hours in the field.
In 2006, Hill-Rom introduced the model 105, version 1.20 which looks just like the model 104. However, a closer examination of the air pulse unit’s software features reveals some major differences. First, the ‘ramp-up’ feature. The model 104 hits the patient with the force selected. So if the patient’s treatment protocol would call for a higher force setting, the patient would get hit with the full force upon starting the treatment. The model 105 slowly ramps up the force of the treatment and makes the transition to full force gradually, easing the patient into the treatment.
Newer versions such as the 1.22 also incorporates three different program modes such as a normal, even treatment protocol, a ramp-up protocol and a program mode with cough pauses. During the cough pauses, the air pressure is lowered to allow for deep breathing. Additionally, the unit can be programmed in several major languages. Besides the software, the 1.22 version also has improvements with internal components, substituting silicone for some rubber components. Recently, the units have been fitted with a stronger blower motor and brighter, backlit displays. Failure rates have also decreased with the model 105. Pressure sensors have been greatly improved and we have not found any software errors so far.
Occasionally, we’ll come across a model 205. This is exactly the same as the model 105, except that it allows for multiple user programming. These devices are usually used in clinical settings for multiple patients.