THE Children’s Hospital Charity has funded a research project into the development of prototypes for headgear to support life-changing ventilation masks for children.
This research has been conducted through a partnership between Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Hallam University.
It aimed to support children who are classed as technologically dependent and require some form of respiratory support overnight. Usually, this is a non-invasive ventilator, which provides airway support or support into the lung fields of these children overnight.
They often have difficulties finding a mask to deliver the ventilation that also fits them well. If the mask doesn’t fit them very well, it can cause sores or injuries on their face or it can cause the ventilation not to work properly.
The first part of this project saw the research team develop custom-made masks for the patients, that were 3D printed for their faces. This was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research Children and Young People’s Medical Technology Co-operative (NIHR CYP MedTech), one of 11 MedTech and In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) funded by – the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care, and a major funder of global health research and training.
The new masks have a more even pressure distribution with less air leakage so that the children who use them will have less pressure on their faces and will experience more efficient ventilation. This has been shown to improve both quality of life and life expectancy. For these masks to be used appropriately, headgear needed to be developed to go with them, so The Children’s Hospital Charity funded the development of the headgear to hold the mask in place and allow better ventilation for the patients who use the masks.
As part of this project, the research team started by going out into the community to see patients and their families in their homes. They asked children and their families about their masks, headgear and how they use them. This information then informed a range of prototypes and different designs to answer some of the issues families had with their current masks.
These prototypes were shared with people so they could provide feedback to create the final design.
Nicki Barker, advanced physiotherapist, and principal clinical researcher, said:
“One of the important things that has come out of the project so far is our discovery that creating headgear that’s modular and comes in pieces that you can put together to make individual for each child is really important.”
Through trials with adult volunteers, a design was developed that was not one size fits all and could be made useful for each child needing to use it. Initial trials were with adults and then feedback was taken forward to be used in children’s care.
The next stage of the project will aim to create an official product for potential NHS use and move out of the prototype phase.
Lee Richardson, Clinical Nurse Specialist, said:
“If it wasn’t for The Children’s Hospital Charity funding this in the initial stages this would not have got off the ground. However, from a funding point of view, that’s going to move on to a different funding stream. It was the initial input and support from The Children’s Hospital Charity that made this whole process work.
“This is going to be a massively worthwhile process because if we can just improve the life of any one of these children that’s got to be a massive benefit to both the child and the families.”
To support more innovative research, visit our website here: tchc.org.uk/appeal/national-centre-for-child-health-technology/.