Background: In response to supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs or “masks”), which are typically single-use devices in healthcare settings, are routinely being used for prolonged periods and in some cases decontaminated under “reuse” and “extended use” policies. However, the reusability of N95 masks is often limited by degradation or breakage of elastic head bands and issues with mask fit after repeated use. The purpose of this study was to develop a frame for N95 masks, using readily available materials and 3D printing, which could replace defective or broken bands and improve fit. Results: An iterative design process yielded a mask frame consisting of two 3D-printed side pieces, malleable wire links that users press against their face, and cut lengths of elastic material that go around the head to hold the frame and mask in place. Volunteers (n= 41; average BMI= 25.5), of whom 31 were women, underwent qualitative fit with and without mask frames and one or more of four different brands of FFRs conforming to US N95 or Chinese KN95 standards. Masks passed qualitative fit testing in the absence of a frame at rates varying from 48-92% (depending on mask model and tester). For individuals for whom a mask passed testing, 75-100% (average = 86%) also passed testing with a frame holding the mask in place. Among users for whom a mask failed in initial fit testing, 41% passed using a frame. Success varied with mask model and across individuals. Conclusions: The use of mask frames can prolong the lifespan of N95 and KN95 masks by serving as a substitute for broken or defective bands without adversely affecting fit. Frames also have the potential to improve fit for some individuals who cannot fit existing masks. Frames therefore represent a simple and inexpensive way of extending the life and utility of PPE in short supply. For clinicians and institutions interested in mask frames, designs and specifications are provided without restriction for use or modification. To ensure adequate performance in clinical settings, qualitative fit testing with user-specific masks and frames is required.
Collection : COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv