Barrow Uses Medical Innovation to Help Fight COVID-19 Pandemic, N95 Mask Shortage

(PHOENIX – March 31, 2020) – As medical centers across the country report a shortage of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), the Innovation Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix has engineered a way to develop N95-substitute masks and other PPE prototypes including face shields and general surgical masks.

The Barrow Innovation Center is a medical device development lab founded and managed by Barrow neurosurgery residents. The core principles taught in the lab are to identify unmet needs, invent novel solutions to those needs, and innovate the clinical application of those inventions to achieve better patient outcomes—like printing 3D model replicas of patients’ brains and spines to help surgeons prepare for complicated procedures. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to emerge, the Barrow Innovation Center applied these same principles to the global shortage of PPE that health care providers needed to safely care for COVID-19 patients.

“We’re doing this because we want our doctors, our nurses, and our team to remain safe and healthy and on the front line,” says Michael Lawton, MD, President and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. “We’re proud the Barrow Innovation Center has turned out to be a place where we can come up with good ideas and translate those immediately into products that are needed today.”

The N95-substitute masks are created through a combination process of 3-D printing and silicone molding to create an airtight seal. Then, a P100 filter is used to allow the mask to be worn for up to three months if all parts are sanitized properly between patients.

“We have a world class team of engineers who did a phenomenal job designing, prototyping, and testing numerous possible solutions to the N95 mask shortage,” says Michael Bohl, MD, a seventh year neurosurgical resident at Barrow who leads the Innovation Center team. “We are currently working to finalize the best prototype of these N95-substitutes so we can manufacture enough masks to provide safety and reassurance to the doctors and nurses on the frontlines of this battle against the COVID-19 virus.”

The Barrow Innovation Center has also decided to share their design templates and instructions online for others to produce more of these potentially life-saving PPE alternatives. Those plans can be viewed here:

In The News: