Mask Protects Clinicians from Combative Patients

Maria Fontanazza

May 1, 2008

2 Min Read
Mask Protects Clinicians from Combative Patients


The mask protects hospital staff by hindering a combative patient's ability to bite or spit.

Being in a hospital can be stressful. Some patients take their frustration out on caretakers. This can be dangerous for hospital staff, because a patient may lash out by biting or spitting, even while being restrained to a bed or with handcuffs.

A security supervisor at one of the busiest emergency rooms in New Jersey decided that something needed to be done to protect the people who deal with aggressive patients. His solution came in the form of a disposable mask.

“Working in this type of industry, we have nothing that can deter a patient from hurting anybody,” says Louis Pesapane, a security supervisor at Community Medical Center (Toms River, NJ). “We need to have something that's safe for the patients and safe for those trying to take care of the patients.” Pesapane invented the device, which is placed over the patient's mouth, with his wife, Barbara.

The biggest problem that Pesapane sees in the emergency room is combative patients who spit, bite, and curse at people trying to help them. “To me that's a very dangerous thing,” he says. “Sometimes we'll put a paper mask on their mouth, and that doesn't really deter anything. They can still get to you and bite you.” This can be especially hazardous if blood or a contagious illness is involved.

The partial facemask is held in place with elastic Velcro straps that fit around the head. The oval piece that is inserted into the patient's mouth is soft and rubbery, to prevent broken teeth, and it has a hole in the center so it doesn't interfere with breathing. The hole also enables the passage of a tube, should the patient require stomach pumping, for example.

The product could be used by anyone who interacts with difficult patients, from police officers who bring patients into emergency rooms to ambulance technicians to workers in nursing homes.

The Pesapanes have a provisional patent on the device. They're currently working with Advent Product Development (Pawleys Island, SC) to find a company that will license and manufacture the mask.

Copyright ©2008 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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