Barrier Devices, Intubation, and Aerosol Mitigation Strategies: Personal Protective Equipment in the Time of Coronavirus Disease 2019

Eric A. Fried, George Zhou, Ronak Shah, Da Wi Shin, Anjan Shah, Daniel Katz, Garrett W. Burnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Numerous barrier devices have recently been developed and rapidly deployed worldwide in an effort to protect health care workers (HCWs) from exposure to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during high-risk procedures. However, only a few studies have examined their impact on the dispersion of droplets and aerosols, which are both thought to be significant contributors to the spread of COVID-19. METHODS: Two commonly used barrier devices, an intubation box and a clear plastic intubation sheet, were evaluated using a physiologically accurate cough simulator. Aerosols were modeled using a commercially available fog machine, and droplets were modeled with fluorescein dye. Both particles were propelled by the cough simulator in a simulated intubation environment. Data were captured by high-speed flash photography, and aerosol and droplet dispersion were assessed qualitatively with and without a barrier in place. RESULTS: Droplet contamination after a simulated cough was seemingly contained by both barrier devices. Simulated aerosol escaped the barriers and flowed toward the head of the bed. During barrier removal, simulated aerosol trapped underneath was released and propelled toward the HCW at the head of the bed. Usage of the intubation sheet concentrated droplets onto a smaller area. If no barrier was used, positioning the patient in slight reverse Trendelenburg directed aerosols away from the HCW located at the head of the bed. CONCLUSIONS: Our observations imply that intubation boxes and sheets may reduce HCW exposure to droplets, but they both may merely redirect aerosolized particles, potentially resulting in increased exposure to aerosols in certain circumstances. Aerosols may remain within the barrier device after a cough, and manipulation of the box may release them. Patients should be positioned to facilitate intubation, but slight reverse Trendelenburg may direct infectious aerosols away from the HCW. Novel barrier devices should be used with caution, and further validation studies are necessary (Anesth Analg 2021;132:38 45).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


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