Covid-19: snorkelmasks as protective masks for care takersPosted on
Zie ook het artikel op VUBToday voor een Nederlandstalige versie:
Based on the original idea of some Italian clinicians, Albert De Beir, researcher in robotic engineering at Brubotics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) developed an alternative solution for an emergency mask based on a diving mask (from Decathlon) together with Endo Tools Therapeutics (Gosselies) and with help from dr. Benedicte Geniets and otherseveral clinical professionals. The mask is linked to a filter thanks to a 3D printed plastic connector. Its objective it to alleviate the current shortage of FFP2 masks in hospitals to deal with Covid-19. More than 100 are being used at the Gasthuiszusters Antwerpen and the Hôpital Erasme in Brussels.
To filter the air breathed by the caregiver, a medical filter is connected to the plastic adapter. This solution is based on a simple observation: as most of the non-urgent care has been deprogrammed, some hospitals are temporarily left with a surplus of filters (the non-essential operations which have been cancelled free up stock). This type of filter is used to remove bacteria and viruses of the air coming from ventilators. Using such filter could therefore optimize hospital resources and can ultimately protect healthcare staff.
This mask is intended for the medical staff and not for private individuals. Several hospitals in Belgium have been contacted and some of them have already confirmed the need for such an emergency solution. A collaboration has been started directly with medical staff in order to improve and test the design. For this stage, the use of 3D printing made it possible to produce small series of prototypes and directly collect feedback. A hundred 3D-printed connectors have already been given to the St-Vincentius hospital in Antwerp as they wanted to test the solution as soon as possible.
As it recently appeared in the news, this diving mask has already been successfully adapted by Italians into patient respirators by an Italian team. The use here is different since the mask is not intended for patient respirators, but as an emergency mask for the protection of medical staff. There are indeed many reports of caregivers lacking the proper equipment to protect themselves during this health crisis. This solution could also be used by medical personnel outside hospitals, such as general practitioners or paramedics for example.
Depending on the material available, other filter options are being studied. One of the additional advantages the masks offers is that exhaled air does not humidifies the filter, possibly increasing its duration.
One of the major advantages of this mask is that it covers the entire face. Therefore, it fulfils both the role of a regular mask and of a protective visor which also seems to be cruelly lacking. Additionally, its front facing surface can be cleaned. This solution is also durable since, in the event of a crisis where the optimization of resources is necessary, the external contour of the filter could also be cleaned1. This would allow the same person to reuse the medical filter for multiple procedures. Finally, the posterior position of the filter allows it to be protected from direct projections.
Less comfortable than a FFP2 mask, its use would be preferred for short specific aerosolizing technical acts such as intubation. This approach, based on a diving mask, cannot however fully meet yet the strict regulations of the medical field. In view of the health emergency, it is here a question of offering hospitals a pragmatic rescue solution if the FFP2 or protective visors were to be lacking.
Warning: the masks have not been approved as medical device, nor have they been tested or produced in a sterile environment. They should be used with utmost care.
The connector design is available here:
Warning: the masks have not been approved as medical device and should be used with care.
THE AUTHORS, THEIR AFFILIATES, AND VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL DISCLAIM ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING THOSE OF QUALITY, MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OR INFRINGEMENT, AND WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSSES OR DAMAGES IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OF THE DEVICE DESCRIBED HERE.