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What is a Non-Rebreather Mask?

By M. DePietro
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A non-rebreather mask (NRB) is a type of mask used to deliver oxygen therapy to a patient in medical emergencies. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians generally use the mask when a patient needs a high percentage of oxygen before he can be taken to a hospital. This type of mask is also often used in hospitals for patients who require a high flow of oxygen.

Other types of devices can deliver oxygen therapy to a patient, so it is important to understand some devices can deliver only a limitated amount of oxygen. For instance, a nasal cannula can only deliver 6 liters of oxygen per minute. Certain patients may require more oxygen per minute. This mask can deliver 15 liters per minute for oxygen.

People with various medical conditions that cause low blood oxygen levels may benefit from using a non-rebreather. Patients with lung cancer, pneumonia, and severe asthma attacks may have trouble getting enough oxygen into the lungs. The mask may also be used for trauma patients or heart attack patients.

A non-rebreather mask consists of a few parts. A reservoir bag is attached to the mask. This bag inflates when it is attached to an oxygen cylinder or other oxygen source. The mask also includes a one-way valve that prevents exhaled air from being breathed again. It also prevents room air from being inhaled so that patients receive a high percentage of oxygen.

A non-rebreather mask must be attached to an oxygen source, such as a hospital flow meter or an oxygen cylinder. The oxygen source should be set to provide between 12 and 15 liters per minute. This is enough flow to inflate the bag two-thirds full.

Non-rebreather masks come in a variety of sizes. For the non-rebreather to be most effective, the proper size mask is needed. Adult, pediatric, and infant masks are available. Since the mask needs to cover both the nose and mouth, some people with claustrophobia may feel anxious.

When using the mask, it is important to be sure the reservoir bag is at least two-thirds inflated. If it is not inflated to this level, there is insufficient oxygen flow, which can cause a build up of carbon dioxide.

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Discussion Comments

By anon977791 — On Nov 13, 2014

They are found in any healthcare setting that delivers oxygen to patients. I use them frequently.

By Realited — On Feb 13, 2014

I'm almost certain there are other places this can be found. But there would have to be trained people on site in order for it to be used efficiently.

By Grinderry — On Feb 12, 2014

I wonder if these are only found in hospitals or if they would be something that you find at maybe a firehouse, or police station as well?

By Realited — On Feb 12, 2014
I had worked in a hospital for almost three years before I had seen one of the type they describe here. It is not uncommon in the medical field but you have to be specifically working in say, the EMT division or someplace that you will have exposure to it before you see one in action.
By Grinderry — On Feb 11, 2014

This is something new to me, I had always thought that the masks you see on television and at hospitals were all the same kind. But to find out that certain ones deliver more or less oxygen to the person it is attached to is interesting.

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