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Anderson creates new ‘triple trunk’ mask for respiratory patients

Jeff Anderson
Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson, associate professor for the Department of Respiratory Care, knew there had to be a better way to conserve oxygen during a time when local hospitals were short on oxygen supply due to the COVID pandemic.

Anderson, who has been a respiratory care practitioner for 48 years, found an article that referenced a creative solution to incorporate a “trunk mask” that allowed hospitals to decrease oxygen flow requirements, and conserve oxygen supplies while allowing patients to breathe freely. Anderson made a slight modification to the device and shared it with local stakeholders.

Since many COVID patients end up being intubated and require oxygen to breathe, hospitals have seen increased use of large volumes of oxygen which has stressed their systems. Some local hospitals have had significant decreases in their liquid oxygen system pressures, while smaller hospitals are experiencing limited access to gas cylinder systems. As the COVID patient count increases, particularly for those patients with critical respiratory illness, hospital oxygen systems worldwide will continue to be stressed and any option to conserve their supply is valuable. In addition, ventilators require an adequate pressure of oxygen to function properly.

Triple trunk mask on manikin head
Anderson’s triple trunk mask on a manikin

The new triple trunk mask differs from a regular oxygen mask in that the trunk mask acts as a reservoir to capture oxygen from a high flow nasal cannula (running at 50-60 liters/minute) that would have been wasted during exhalation. This allows the oxygen flow rate to decrease while adequately oxygenating the patient.

Owen Seatz, a 1993 alum of the respiratory care program and current department manager of respiratory care at Saint Alphonsus, and Scott Hawkins, a 2014 alum and Saint Alphonsus respiratory care supervisor, brought the issue of loss of oxygen to Anderson’s attention. Saint Alphonsus was the first local facility to try using the triple trunk mask.

“Jeff Anderson needs to be recognized for being a great mentor and liaison for Boise State University. He brought forward the use of the trunk mask. This suggestion and supportive research has benefited our patients and is a major piece of our oxygen conservation efforts. This just exemplifies the great positive impact our relationship with Boise State University has on our team and patients. We are truly blessed.” Seatz said.

Anderson shared his new mask with Norco, a local medical supply company that has seen a huge increase in demand for oxygen supplies by hospitals in the Northwest during the pandemic.

Anderson said he hopes more facilities will take advantage of the trunk mask as a cost-saving measure to help patients and hospitals, as well as oxygen suppliers like Norco.

“I value the relationships with Saint Alphonsus and Norco a great deal, and was happy to be able to return their support for our students and program,” Anderson said.