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Scientists Design Protective Respirator for Health Care Workers

Team created 3D-printed parts to modify a surgical helmet into a powered air-purifying respirator

The repurposed respirator
The repurposed respirator

THURSDAY, April 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- With protective gear in short supply, Duke University researchers say they have designed a much-needed respirator for health care workers battling coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The respirator was created by a medical and engineering team at the university and is being used by Duke Health doctors treating patients with suspected cases of COVID-19. The idea for the protective respirator came from orthopedic spine surgeon Melissa Erickson, M.D. "We have these helmets that we wear during arthroplasty surgery and we started to wonder, 'Can these be repurposed?'" Erickson said in a Duke news release. Under Erickson's guidance, a multidisciplinary team created three-dimensional (3D)-printed parts to modify the surgical helmet -- which uses room air -- into a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) that uses filtered air.

Eric Richardson, Ph.D., is an associate professor of the practice in biomedical engineering at Duke. "Basically, [a PAPR] is the highest level of protection we can offer our providers, particularly those that are intubating patients," he said. So, "if there's national shortages on personal protective equipment and PAPRs, maybe we can use things that we have plenty of in the hospital and do modifications to be able to increase the number of protective personal equipment that we have to provide for health care workers."

More than a dozen of the protective respirators have been made for Duke Health and the team will continue to produce them for the health system. The task force has made the design available for others to 3D print the parts needed to create their own protective respirators.

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