Dan Walker visits innovative research team at Sheffield Children’s

Dan had his face and head 3D scanned to demonstrate how they make bespoke headgear for masks, that are more comfortable and cause less sleep disturbance than the ones currently available.

Dan Walker has visited a research team at Sheffield Children’s to learn about the development of headgear for Non-Invasive Ventilation masks.

The team leading the research project, supported by The Children’s Hospital Charity, welcomed in the Channel 5 presenter and patron of the Charity to get a feel of how it all works. Dan had his face and head 3D scanned to demonstrate how they make bespoke headgear for the masks, that are more comfortable and cause less sleep disturbance than the ones currently available.

This project is a collaboration between Sheffield Children’s and Sheffield Hallam University. The headgear development is the next step in a research project to develop bespoke 3D printed facemasks for children and young people who need to wear masks throughout the night to receive vital breathing support. The team has already developed a mask design and successfully produced individualised masks for some of the children at Sheffield Children’s that were struggling to find a mask that fitted them comfortably. This work was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

The new masks have a more even pressure distribution with less air leakage so that the children who will use them will have less pressure on their faces and will experience more efficient ventilation. This turn has been shown to improve both quality of life and life expectancy. For these masks to be used appropriately, headgear needed to be developed to go with them, so The Children’s Hospital Charity has funded the development of the headgear to hold the mask in place and allow more efficient delivery of the ventilation needed by the children and young people who need them.

Dan said: “It was amazing to visit the team and see some of the ground-breaking work they are doing. It is so encouraging to see that Sheffield Children’s is at the forefront when it comes to technology in child healthcare.”

To develop the headgear, researchers Matt Willox and Lee Richardson visited families in the community and asked about the experience they currently have and how their needs could be met with personally designed headgear. From this, several prototypes were developed and were presented to families at drop-in sessions.

The prototypes considered a variety of needs, including the ease of getting the headgear on the child’s head to limiting the need for lots of adjustments to the headgear.

After gathering feedback from families at the sessions, the research team are now trialing the headgear designs on adult volunteers. The initial trial on adults will inform future studies with children and young people.

Former BBC Strictly Come Dancing star, Dan, has been a patron for The Children’s Hospital Charity for over nine years. During his time working with the Charity, he has held golf days, presented at the Bears of Sheffield auction, and recently won £32,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in support of Sheffield Children’s. On a recent visit to the hospital, Dan met with the research team to learn more about the process of getting ready for adult trials.

Professor Heather Elphick is leading the research from Sheffield Children’s and the NIHR Children and Young People’s MedTech Co-operative (NIHR CYP MedTech), one of 11 MedTech and In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operatives (MICs) funded by The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) - the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care, and a major funder of global health research and training.

Professor Elphick explained:

“To test the headgear each adult participant has a 3D scan of their face and head so that the headgear can be made to their exact dimensions and specifications decided on after the patient feedback sessions.”

“Custom-made 3D masks are then printed for each volunteer.”

“The trial involves the participants wearing the custom-made mask and headgear and then comparing them with off the shelf products.”

“Pressure distribution is also measured to check for pressure areas on the face and air leakage is measured with a special camera.”

During Dan’s visit he had his face 3D scanned to experience part of the same process as our adult volunteers and the children that will take part in future trials.

Development Officer, Rob Gurrachaga, said of the meeting:

“It was so exciting to be able to show Dan Walker the incredible work happening here at Sheffield Children’s. Our hospital is on the cutting edge of child health and technology so to share this with one of our incredible supporters was very special.”

To find out more about the amazing work happening at Sheffield Children’s visit this page.