Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of a medical surgical Mask or procedural mask?
In the Operating Room (OR), surgical masks protect the sterile field from possible contamination, primarily as a result of coughing, sneezing or talking. A mask may also protect clinicians from the byproducts of surgical procedures such as bone chips, splashes of body fluids, and smoke plume resulting from laser or electrosurgical techniques.
What is the difference between a surgical mask and a procedure mask?
A surgical mask is used inside the operating room or during other sterile procedure areas to protect the patient environment from contamination. Surgical masks have ties so that they can be adjusted for fit, and are tied over the top of a surgical or bouffant cap.
A procedure mask is used for performing patient procedures, or when patients are in isolation to protect them from potential contaminants. They are used for 'respiratory etiquette' to prevent people from spreading germs via talking, coughing, or sneezing. Procedure masks have ear loops for quick donning, and since they do not slide on the hair can be worn without a surgical cap.
How long is my surgical mask or procedural mask effective?
A mask should be worn for only one patient procedure or visit. If a mask gets wet or soiled it should be replaced.
Why is the fit of a mask important?
A mask is only as effective as its fit. There should be no gaps along the side, around the nose or under the chin that would allow air and droplets to bypass the filter medium. A well-fitting mask stays in place over the nose and cheeks and even a regular mask will prevent fogging of eyeglasses if it fits properly. Masks should not be worn underneath the nose or dangling around the neck — they should either be fully on, or disposed of.
How do I ensure a good fit?
The most important consideration is the nose piece. It should mold over the nose and cheeks and maintain its shape over time. It should not kink or break when adjusted. The upper tie should sit at the crown of the head, and the lower tie should be tied behind the neck to hold the sides of the mask against the face to prevent any gaping.
What is the difference between a medical mask and a respirator?
Medical masks (surgical/procedure masks) are loose fitting masks that cover the mouth and nose. A respirator is designed to reduce exposure to airborne contaminants. Known airborne pathogens include TB, SARS, Anthrax, and Hanta virus. Respirators must be individually selected to fit the wearers face and shown to provide a good seal. They also must be certified by NIOSH, and used within a comprehensive respiratory program including fit testing and training.
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