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Better Sleep and Support Blog

New Tech Creates Custom CPAP Masks

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For years now patients have been wearing CPAP masks – the breathing device that helps them sleep soundly at night. It works by sitting flush across the face and nose, then providing a steady stream of air for the duration of one’s sleeping period. The constant air motion allows the nasal passages to receive necessary oxygen, while keeping the throat open and preventing coughing or choking that wakes sleep apnea sufferers throughout the night.

It’s a process that’s improved over time and provided some much needed sleep and relief to many patients. But that doesn’t mean the process is perfect. Masks don’t always fit and patients are forced to wrestle with standard sizes that may or may not adjust to their specific features. Until now.

With the help of 3D printers, a new computer program can help fit masks on a case-by-case basis. Where each person receives a custom, molded fit. So that the machine can not only work more efficiently to help them sleep throughout the night, but so that the mask itself is more comfortable. Also helping the patient to receive better and deeper sleep, without waking from unnecessary factors. Such as a mask that moves or chafes.

How it Works

Researchers in Michigan came up with this unique concept after wanting to find a way to improve CPAP treatments. An event that caused researchers at the University of Michigan Health System to coin a custom computer program that takes face models (from multiple angles) and then prints a 3D mask made specifically for the highs and lows, intricacies, angles, etc., for each patient.

Though the idea is nothing new, recent advancements in printing have since made their idea possible. As well as more budget-friendly than custom mask models in previous years. (Which were far more expensive and still less fitted than those made with the most recent techniques. And also took more time to come up with a finished product.)

In order to create the mask, researchers take a 3D image of the patient, which is then replicated in a computer program from all angles. It’s a process that’s quick and extremely accurate, and requires very little of the patient’s time for sizing or shaping. (Vs. making an actual mold of their face.) Specialized 3D printers are then filled with silicone and made on the spot.

How They Fare

To date, multiple tests have been completed. Showing that the 3D-printed masks have proven to be far more efficient than standard and other customized models. Its most impressive feature is the ability to reduce interface leak, where air seeps out of the patient’s mask. A problem that has been around since the dawn of CPAP machines, causing inefficiency and discomfort. However, with custom-printing masks, this level of leaking was not only reduced, patients said the masks were more comfortable and they were able to obtain better sleep.

This was especially true of child patients, whose faces are harder to fit into CPAP masks – from small sizing and continued growth. As well as those of all ages with craniofacial anomalies, or features that make their individual faces more difficult to fit into pre-made sizes.

Though this method isn’t yet issued as a practice standard, it’s growing among the scientific and medical fields alike. Especially with patient word of mouth, many of whom are singing the masks praises.

To learn more about custom CPAP masks, talk with your doctor or your sleep apnea medical provider.

You can also head to 3DPB.com to talk with other patients and researchers on the subject, or head to this website: http://3dprint.com/67500/cpap-3d-print/

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