Men with beards can breathe a sigh of relief if they ever require urgent medical ventilation, thanks to Queensland Government funding to help market a very clever Brisbane innovation.

Brisbane firm Scott Airway Management Pty Ltd had received $100,000 in Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas funding to scale up its SAM Safety Shield medical device in Australia, Europe, UK and the US.

It’s not something that comes to mind, but for men with facial hair, their beard can be an issue for medical staff trying to fit Bag Mask Ventilation (BMV) over their face – causing problems for the patient and these days with COVID-19 also a risk for doctors and nurses. When patients can’t breathe for themselves, medical staff cover a patient’s nose and mouth with a BMV to move oxygen into a patient’s lungs to keep them alive. The problem is that facial hair, or a misshaped face on a patient, greatly reduces the ability of hospital staff to create an adequate seal on the patient’s face when Bag Mask Ventilating. If there is no seal between the mask and the patient’s face, it becomes impossible to force air into the lungs, which places the patient at increased risk of death from lack of oxygen and cardiac arrest.

In addition, there is the risk of transmitting COVID-19 viral particles from a patient to staff in any patient that the SAM Safety Shield can help to prevent. Scott Airway Management Director Dr Paul Scott said the SAM Safety Shield overcame these problems by providing a flexible and contoured surface to seal a BMV.  Dr Scott, who has 17 years of experience in anaesthesia and critical care, came up with the device out of personal frustration. “Medical staff currently use wound dressing or cling film to attempt to improve the seal. But the application is time consuming, costly, complex, often ineffective and often not protective,” Dr Scott said.

Dr Scott said the company tested the device with clinicians at the Ramsay Health Care Australia and Healthscope hospitals in Brisbane. “This has resulted in requests to stock the device in these hospitals,” Dr Scott said. “With the Ignite Ideas funding, we’ll look to go out more broadly to market. Globally, there are about 350 million surgical procedures performed each year. Each of these procedures requires a patient to become unconscious and for clinicians to use BMV to breathe for them.

“Given that many men have beards these days – from lockdown beard to hipster beards – and of course, cultural and religious reasons for having beards, we estimate that the potential global market to be about 80 million units per year. To do that our company will need to employ distributers and staff here in Australia” Rachel Boden CEO commented.