Performance and impact of disposable and reusable respirators for healthcare workers during pandemic respiratory disease: a rapid evidence review.
Burton C., Coles B., Anisesh A., Smith S., Toomey E., Chan XH., Ross L., Greenhalgh T.
Objectives In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, to identify the range of filtering respirators that can be used in patient care and synthesise evidence to guide the selection and use of different respirator types. Design Comparative analysis of international standards for filtering respirators and rapid review of their performance and impact in healthcare. Data sources Websites of international standards organisations, Medline and EMBASE (final search 11th May 2020), with hand-searching of references and citations. Study selection Guided by the SPIDER tool, we included studies whose sample was healthcare workers (including students). The phenomenon of interest was respirators, including disposable and reusable types. Study designs including cross-sectional, observational cohort, simulation, interview and focus group. Evaluation approaches included test of respirator performance, test of clinician performance or adherence, self-reported comfort and impact, and perceptions of use. Research types included quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods. We excluded studies comparing the effectiveness of respirators with other forms of protective equipment. Data extraction, analysis and synthesis Two reviewers extracted data using a template. Suitability for inclusion in the analysis was judged by two reviewers. We synthesised standards by tabulating data according to key criteria. For the empirical studies, we coded data thematically followed by narrative synthesis. Results We included relevant standards from 8 authorities across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia. 39 research studies met our inclusion criteria. There were no instances of comparable publications suitable for quantitative comparison. There were four main findings. First, international standards for respirators apply across workplace settings and are broadly comparable across jurisdictions. Second, effective and safe respirator use depends on proper fitting and fit-testing. Third, all respirator types carry a burden to the user of discomfort and interference with communication which may limit their safe use over long periods; studies suggest that they have little impact on specific clinical skills in the short term but there is limited evidence on the impact of prolonged wearing. Finally, some clinical activities, particularly chest compressions, reduce the performance of filtering facepiece respirators. Conclusion A wide range of respirator types and models is available for use in patient care during respiratory pandemics. Careful consideration of performance and impact of respirators is needed to maximise protection of healthcare workers and minimise disruption to the delivery of care.