A surgical face mask, also called a medical face mask, is designed to be worn only by licensed medical staff during actual surgical procedures. Surgical masks used in the hospital are designed for hygienic and aesthetic reasons to prevent the spread of infection and to keep the patient comfortable during surgery. Most surgical masks used in the hospital today are far more advanced than those used years ago. Most masks now include a wide base with a chin strap to keep the mask secure on the face during surgery. They are often equipped with an adjustable air release valve for nasal inflation at the time of surgery.
When selecting a face mask for use during a surgical procedure it is important that one fit perfectly on the face. Masks that are not properly fitted can cause facial hair and debris to fall into the mask and reduce its effectiveness or even result in a patient being unable to breathe because the mask is unable to hold the head in a position that allows normal airflow. If a mask is too loose it will not provide adequate protection and will begin to move around and slide down the nose. Masks that are too tight will block the nose and mouth and prevent proper ventilation. Surgery patients should always make sure the mask fits correctly.
Because face masks to prevent the spread of germs during surgical procedures, they also prevent other types of contamination from entering the surgical area. Germs can enter the operating room through an opening near a lip or chin cut. By wearing a face mask patients can help to prevent these kinds of openings from being used for the entry of bacteria and other dangerous viruses. A simple check before surgery can ensure that all bacteria and other microorganisms are removed from the patient’s face prior to surgery.
Because face masks can be very effective in containing the spread of disease, they are often required at hospital emergency rooms as well as intensive care units and rehabilitation centers. If a patient should become infected with a germ while in such a facility there will be a very short time between when the infection becomes active and when it is detected. In a typical emergency room a patient may be required to wear a mask until the staff can identify the germ. After that the mask may need to be removed to allow the patient to breathe. If this is done during the same time that the patient is being treated for a breathing concern, it can create a risk for both the patient and the staff if the mask were not properly cleaned prior to the use of the device. In addition to having to remove the mask to have air flow, patients may also need to replace them before the end of the patient’s stay due to the build up of bacteria and other microorganisms on the devices that cannot be removed by simple cleansing.
There are many types of cloth masks available to physicians and medical staff. Some cloth masks have a disposable filter built into them, which is easily disposable and easily removed after each use. However, in order to remove large particulates from the face such as in the case of nose and throat infections where the particles can grow into a full-blown infection the cloth mask will need to be changed before it is again used. The filter that can be used needs to fit comfortably over the nose and mouth as well as being of a sufficiently small size to ensure that no particles are trapped between the filter and the face.
It is recommended that all surgical masks are replaced every three to six months depending on the activity level of the staff member wearing them. While it may take more time to replace the average sized disposable surgical mask, it is important to note that they are much more prone to becoming injured or dirty. For this reason it is strongly recommended that all staff members wear replacement masks. As a side note it is also important to note that all staff members are encouraged to wear the same size and style of replacement mask during their shift change so that the risk of a misfit is the least.