What is a non-rebreather mask?
A non-rebreather mask is a medical device that helps deliver oxygen in emergency situations. It consists of a face mask connected to a reservoir bag that’s filled with a high concentration of oxygen. The reservoir bag is connected to an oxygen tank.
The mask covers both your nose and mouth. One-way valves prevent exhaled air from reentering the oxygen reservoir.
A non-rebreather mask is used in emergency situations to prevent hypoxemia, also known as low blood oxygen. Conditions that disrupt your lungs’ ability to uptake oxygen or your heart’s ability to pump blood can cause low blood oxygen levels.
If your blood oxygen levels drop too low, you can develop a condition called hypoxia, where your essential tissues become oxygen-deprived.
A non-rebreather mask may be used after traumatic injury, smoke inhalation, or carbon monoxide poisoning to keep blood oxygen levels within a normal range.
In this article, we explain how non-rebreather masks work and how they differ from other masks used during oxygen therapy.
How does a non-rebreather mask work?
A non-rebreather face mask fits over your mouth and nose and attaches with an elastic band around your head. The mask is connected to a plastic reservoir bag filled with a high concentration of oxygen. The mask has a one-way valve system that prevents exhaled oxygen from mixing with the oxygen in the reservoir bag.
When you inhale, you breathe in oxygen from the reservoir bag. Exhaled air escapes through vents in the side of the mask and goes back into the atmosphere.
Non-rebreather masks allow you to receive a higher concentration of oxygen than with standard masks. They’re generally only used for short-term increases in oxygenation.
Non-rebreather masks aren’t commonly used because they come with several risks. Disruptions in airflow can lead to suffocation. You can potentially choke if you vomit while wearing the mask if you’re sedated or unconscious. A healthcare provider usually remains in attendance during use of this type mask.