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Numerical analysis of the mechanical behavior of CPAP masks: effects of modeling the soft tissues

Francesco Genna

Vol. 17 (2022), No. 3, 281–296

The finite element (FEM) analysis of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks was proved feasible in previous work, where a comparison was made with laboratory results obtained by making use of a rigid dummy head. The long-term purpose of that work was an accurate numerical analysis of the mechanical effects, possibly dangerous from the medical viewpoint, of CPAP masks applied to human faces, such as recently employed for the care of COVID-19 patients, or other purposes. The present work explores the importance of introducing, into the FEM models, the head soft tissues. The numerical description of the soft tissues produces a significant increase both in the complexity of the modeling phase and of the computational cost of the analyses. The focus of the present work is mainly in trying to understand if this increase is justified by a significant change of the calculated mechanical quantities of interest, with respect to the relatively simpler case of modeling the head as a rigid surface. It was found that, at least under short-term loading, the global behavior of the mask is very marginally affected by the presence of the soft tissues which, instead, does somewhat influence the local contact pressures between the mask and the head face, but not in a decisive way. In particular, even in the presence of the soft skin-like layer the distribution of the contact pressures remains uneven, with many zones of detachment. This seems to suggest that in this type of analyses it may be acceptable to model the head face as a rigid surface, thus containing significantly both the modeling phase and the computational costs.

CPAP masks, finite element analyses, unilateral contact, contact pressures, soft tissues
Received: 29 December 2021
Revised: 14 March 2022
Accepted: 19 March 2022
Published: 22 January 2023
Francesco Genna
Department of Medical Surgical Specialties, Radiological Sciences and Public Health
University of Brescia