Decathlon’s face-covering diving masks only cost around 20 euros and can help corona patients with acute respiratory distress through some clever alterations. Together with a few others, professor of medical technology Ruud Verdaasdonk and robotics expert Stefano Stramigioli from the UT have put their heads together to contribute in a fast but effective way. “I was at home for a few days when the crisis started, but the itching began quickly. I had to do something. And just like that, I started with the development of this mask, together with other professors”, says Verdaasdonk. A 3D-printed connection piece is made for these masks so that a breathing tube can be connected instead of a snorkel. These adapted masks reduce the pressure in intensive care because patients can stay in a regular hospital department for a longer time.
Stramigioli: “This way of non-invasive ventilation has been around for some time, but the products for this are hardly available anymore. Besides that, this method has a great advantage; the masks fit on the head perfectly. This creates a closed circuit and limits the risk of contamination in the patient’s environment.” Patients usually receive the extra oxygen through an oxygen tube in the nose, so their breath goes back into the room unfiltered. The advantage of this face-covering mask is that the exhaled air is filtered, so the risk of contamination is limited.
“These masks can help the people who are not yet in very bad shape”, Verdaasdonk explains. “These are so-called medium care patients who are under stricter supervision but are not yet in an ICU bed. If you can keep these patients in a better condition with this, you prevent them from ending up in the ICU.” This means that fewer ICU beds are needed, and the mask can ensure that occupied ICU beds are available again more quickly: “After-treatment can be done with these masks so that people can leave the ICU faster.” The masks can also be used for people who have just entered the hospital. It takes time to prepare a bed for a patient, and these masks can provide the necessary relief in the meantime so that the patient’s condition remains steady.
The design is already being used in France, and expansion to other countries can soon follow. The first patients were treated in Strasbourg, and the results were very encouraging. Stramigioli has built a website where all the designs and instructions are available for medical specialists. In the Netherlands, the researchers hope that the masks can also be used as soon as possible, while they continuously monitor the safety of this solution.