“How this ENT specialist invented extra protection against airborne diseases during scope procedures”
When doing surgery, the medical professional tries to avoid aerosol and droplet contamination.
Dr. Chew Hui Sing, an ENT specialist from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) in Singapore, discovered the risks of aerosols or droplets from unprotected patients when performing scope operations, which might result in the spreading of potentially infectious diseases.
According to Chew, the danger of infection transfer during operations like nasendoscopy requires cutting-edge technology.
“During this procedure, sometimes, despite the use of topical anesthetic spray, patients may cough and sneeze. Coughing, sneezing, talking, or even breathing result in a significant amount of aerosols and droplets that are being released into the environment,” Chew told Healthcare Asia.
The ENT specialist thought of creating a tool to protect patients and healthcare workers during ENT procedures.
After consultation with the National Healthcare Group’s (NHG) Centre for Medical Technologies & Innovations (CMTi) and its industry partner, The Biofactory, Chew invented Aerodrop Duo, an environmentally-friendly dual-function high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filtration scope mask system. The BioFactory, a biomedical incubator in Singapore, is also the co-inventor of the device.
“We know that COVID-19 is not going to be the first nor the last pandemic in the history of human pandemics that we encounter,” said Chew.
“It is important that we take measures to bring about a safer method of performing such procedures, such that this service does not get disrupted in the next pandemic. It can also allow us to resume efficiently and safely without compromising the safety of healthcare workers or any patients or visitors,” she added.
Aerodrop Duo, as Chew pointed out, is a dual-function protective scope mask and filtration system. The mask is one-size-fits-all, transparent, hypoallergenic, has ports for scope access, and serves as a physical barrier itself. In addition, suction to the mask powered by the medical grade HEPA serves as a second layer of protection against any potential leakages from the mask edges.
The fully titratable HEPA filtration unit then serves as the third layer of protection to filter the ambient clinic air, even if there are no procedures performed. A HEPA filtration can trap tiny particles, according to John Hopkins University, a US-based research university.
“The idea is that of source control where we try to limit the contamination to the source itself before it even gets into the environment. This is a good idea because there are no other existing measures that will allow us to resume service as efficiently,” Chew.
Tested and tried
Chew said they initially performed tests to see if the Aerodrop Duo can stop aerosol and droplet contamination before employing the device in ENT treatments. They carried up a pilot research with 15 healthy people using the Aerodrop Duo to generate aerosols, contrasting it with and without a surgical mask to demonstrate its effectiveness.
As well as in situations when patients engaged in aerosol-producing activities like chatting, singing, or even coughing, Chew explained, “We compared Aerodrop Duo to conventional surgical masks.” The study revealed that, in comparison to other therapies, the Aerodrop Duo emits particles at a slower rate during speaking, singing, and breathing (such as in masked or unmasked situations). When using the prototype, Chew said, “we discovered a considerable and noteworthy reduction in the rate of growth of cumulative particle counts compared to even standard surgical masks or without any masks.”
Finally, Chew’s team discovered that their ground-breaking item is the first one available on the market to be connected to a portable HEPA filter (of a minimum level of H13). Through source control and the lowering of environmental toxins, the usage of this scuba mask and filtration system may aid in reducing disease spread during the ongoing pandemic or subsequent outbreaks of unknown respiratory diseases.
Fully reusable, eco-friendly
According to data from Singapore’s Ministry of Health, between 2016 and 2020, the quantity of biohazardous waste produced and disposed of by hospitals and clinics increased by 5% year.
The creators of Aerodrop Duo also sought to make sure that the product was sustainable with this information in mind. They reduced waste and carbon footprints by making the medical device’s component parts sterilisable.
The filtration unit is also quite quiet, which is significant since such devices are utilized in clinical settings, where physicians may be chatting to patients in the background, Chew said. “Our complete mask as well as the straps are entirely sterilizable.
Clinicians will also feel more at ease while doing scope operations since they won’t need to wear complete PPE or N95 masks, according to Chew. This is so that the device’s contamination is restricted to the source alone.
As a result, the gadget is sufficiently sustainable to cut down on medical waste like large surgical suits.
As stated by Gabriel Tan, Program Director at The BioFactory, “You can ensure safety while minimizing the use of PPEs. “You lower the amount of disposables and consumables that everyone needs to use.
Aerodrop Duo’s ability to be deployed in wards or emergency rooms while scope operations are being performed is another benefit.
The technology also solves the high cost and lack of negative pressure rooms. The Aerodrop Duo, according to The BioFactory, costs $10 to $15 per patient, which is less expensive than renting or building a whole negative pressure chamber from scratch.
“There is a very low cost in terms of consumable expenditures, unlike other devices,” Tan added. “This is a fully reusable system.
The fact that the gadget is hypoallergenic and biocompatible increases its effectiveness.
Chew said that experts, including those in infectious diseases from Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, were contacted and even backed the usage of the device to demonstrate its efficacy and safety.
“Given the solid statistics for its efficacy, our infectious diseases team has enabled practitioners to use this device even during the earlier part of the pandemic before the current national drop down in PPE,” she added. “Scope procedures with this device.”
Looking ahead, Chew stated that they intend to promote the Aerodrop Duo to additional ENT experts as well as other areas of the hospital, while Tan is optimistic about its potential to expand beyond the local market.
In circumstances involving infectious diseases, the portable scope mask and filtration system can also be adjusted for patient transportation.