Reusable respirators as personal protective equipment in clinical practice: User experience in times of a pandemic

Mathias Maleczek, Frédéric Toemboel, Maximiliaan Van Erp, Florian Thalhammer, Bernhard Rössler

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

1 Citation (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The novel strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is highly contagious; therefore, special emphasis must be given to personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Reusable elastomeric respirators were previously used in intensive care units (ICU). These respirators include full or half masks and devices modified to accommodate a filter. Although the general comfort of masks used in the ICU has been studied, data comparing multiple types of masks during a pandemic are missing.

METHODS: A prospective randomized trial was conducted in an ICU. After standardized training, participants were randomized to use one of three mask types (full, half or snorkelling mask), each fitted with a filter equivalent to a class 3 particle-filtering half mask (FFP3) during one shift. The main outcomes were characteristics of using the mask itself (donning/doffing, quality of seal, cleaning), working conditions with the mask (vision, comfort, perceived safety, communication) and a subjective comparison to single-use FFP2/3 masks.

RESULTS: A total of 30 participants were included in the trial, randomized to 10 participants per group. The masks were worn 6.4 (4.5) times (mean SD) for a total duration of 132 (66) min per shift. The tested masks were rated 7 (2.6) (mean SD) in comparison to FFP2/3 on a Likert scale (0: worst, 10: best). Significant differences between the masks were found in respect to comfort (7/4/8), donning (8/7/9), overall rating (8/5/8) and comparison to single-use FFP2/3 masks (9/7/9; full-, half, snorkelling mask).

CONCLUSION: Using reusable elastomeric masks is feasible in clinical practice. Full face masks were significantly better in terms of comfort, donning, overall rating and in comparison to single-use FFP2/3 masks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-528
Number of pages7
JournalWiener Klinische Wochenschrift
Issue number13-14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics/prevention & control
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ventilators, Mechanical


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