Hybrid Masks allow ENT doctors to see more patients

A specialized mask for endoscopic procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of doctors unable to offer patients the desperate care they need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An ear, nose, and throat doctor Dr. Scott Fuller has invented a simple mask design that significantly improves safety during aerosol-generating procedures of the head and neck.

At the VA hospital in Sacramento, Fuller said, “I’d been sitting in my office quite a lot at that point in time because we just weren’t able to do anything. We weren’t able to see patients unless they were emergent patients in our clinic, and if we were seeing patients and had to do an endoscopy, we had to get into N95, goggles, face shields, all kinds of PPE.”

In late April, he modified a surgical mask using scissors, introducing a nasal tube and a transparent window for patients to wear. Presently it permits him to see a higher number of patients securely.

A VA medical staffer in Sacramento models
A VA medical staffer in Sacramento models a prototype of the new mask invented by Dr. Scott Fuller, director of Head & Neck Oncology at the VA’s Northern California Health Care System. (photo courtesy Scott Fuller)

Fuller is working with the VA Tech Transfer Program to submit a patent application and identify companies that can produce the mask for widespread use. As the VA national partnership intermediary, TechLink is supporting the VA’s outreach.

Jonathan Baker, a senior technology manager at TechLink, said, “It’s a timely, useful invention with an existing market. Its simplicity makes it manufacturable and marketable.”

This new mask eliminates the downtime by blocking any droplets or aerosol particles from leaving the patient, who can put the mask on just as they would any other surgical mask before coming in. The mask also allows healthcare providers to safely reduce their “PPE burn rate” for routine endoscopic examinations.

Significantly, it allows doctors to see and treat their patients.

Fuller said, “We have many tools within our specialty that have been categorized as aerosol-generating. This problem spans outside of COVID-19 to influenza and other respiratory maladies. But specifically, with COVID-19, I saw a shutdown, essentially, of our clinic and our ability to evaluate our patients.”

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