Performance and impact of disposable and reusable respirators for healthcare workers during pandemic respiratory disease: A rapid evidence review
Burton C., Coles B., Adisesh A., Smith S., Toomey E., Chan XHS., Ross L., Greenhalgh T.
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. Objectives: To synthesise evidence concerning the range of filtering respirators suitable for patient care and guide the selection and use of different respirator types. Design: Comparative analysis of international standards for respirators and rapid review of their performance and impact in healthcare. Data sources: Websites of international standards organisations, Medline and Embase, hand-searching of references and citations. Study selection: Studies of healthcare workers (including students) using disposable or reusable respirators with a range of designs. We examined respirator performance, clinician adherence and performance, comfort and impact, and perceptions of use. Results: We included standards from eight authorities across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia and 39 research studies. 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 care.