Efficacy and safety of decontamination for N95 respirator reuse: a systematic literature search and narrative synthesis
Steinberg, Benjamin E. et al.
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Purpose: Under times of supply chain stress, the availability of some medical equipment and supplies may become limited. The current pandemic involving severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has highlighted limitations to the ordinary provision of personal protective equipment (PPE). For perioperative healthcare workers, N95 masks provide a stark example of PPE in short supply necessitating the creation of scientifically valid protocols for their decontamination and reuse. Methods: We performed a systematic literature search of MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane CENTRAL databases, and ClinicalTrials.gov to identify peer-reviewed articles related to N95 mask decontamination and subsequent testing for the integrity of mask filtration and facial seal. To expand this search, we additionally surveyed the official statements from key health agencies, organizations, and societies for relevant citations. Results: Our initial database search resulted in five articles that met inclusion criteria, with 26 articles added from the expanded search. Our search did not reveal any relevant randomized clinical trials or cohort studies. We found that moist mask heating (65–80°C at 50–85% relative humidity for 20–30 min) and vaporous hydrogen peroxide treatment were supported by the literature to provide consistent viral decontamination without compromising mask seal and filtration efficiency. Other investigated decontamination methods lacked comprehensive scientific evidence for all three of these key criteria. Conclusions: N95 mask reprocessing using either moist heat or vaporous hydrogen peroxide is recommended to ensure healthcare worker safety.