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Somnum: Pet-Friendly Anaesthesia Equipment

Somnum is a series of different-sized anaesthesia masks that are used on animal patients at veterinary clinics. It provides an adequate seal that prevents waste gas leaks.

  • Medium size mask being used on laser cut dog head.

  • No inhalant was administered using Somnum masks during the making of this video.

    No inhalant was administered using Somnum masks during the making of this video.

  • Somnum currently fits domestic animals including rabbits, small-medium dogs, and cats.

  • Seals can be peeled off the dome for ease of cleaning and storage.

  • Medium size currently has two seal styles. Small size currently has three seal styles.

  • Thank you to Massey University, the incredibly supportive technicians, and my wonderful lecturers.

What it does

Somnum is a series of different-sized anaesthesia masks that are fitted to animal patients at veterinary clinics. Somnum provides an adequate seal that prevents waste gas from leaking into the atmosphere and subsequently being inhaled by veterinary staff.

Your inspiration

Somnum stemmed from volunteering at the SPCA. When talking to female nurses about what could be improved anaesthesia masks were their first answers. Current masks on the market often fail to create appropriate seals, this causes gases to leak out into the atmosphere - These are called “waste gases” or “WAGs”. Through my field research in New Zealand, I saw the various ways clinics and Zoos had attempted to address waste gas leaks. Paint buckets and old plastic packaging were used as a base for the mask while the seal itself was comprised of either cling-wrap or rubber gloves that could be stretched taught.

How it works

Somnum is made up of 3 main sections: Seal: This is detachable for easy cleaning. The ear decals on the top represent the different styles of seals. The bottom is squared to stop the mask from rolling on the table, this reduces the risk of patient neck trauma. All seals are made of soft-touch medical-grade silicone which provides flex and is an ambient temperature. The seal can be removed from the dome for ease of cleaning and storage to prevent contamination, ensuring the product can be reused safely. Dome: The clear polymer plastic dome features hand indents for better grip, it also has a recessed ridge that the seal attaches to. Collapsible Top: This is designed to address dead space (any areas in the mask that are empty). Should the patient have a long snout the mask can be extended without having to scale up to a different dome size. There is also a connector valve at the top making Somnum compatible with all standard anaesthesia machines.

Design process

The first step was gathering primary and secondary research through studies, field visits, and interviews with professionals. A personal highlight was getting to visit Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North, I also went to various veterinary clinics in New Zealand as well as a Zoo. When I first started the project I made up four test models to try my masks on: a laser-cut rabbit, a medium-size dog, a robbin, and a small cat. These were my first “patients”. Some initial ideas were masks that inflated around a patient's head or snout through a hand held pump. A mask made up of multiple pieces that snapped together to make the perfect fit - like a puzzle. There were many iterations of the silicone seal with various hole diameters and flange shapes. Throughout the project, animal safety was the driving factor behind the design choices. As the project progressed I was able to add quality of life elements for the human users. The hand indents on the dome are for veterinary staff with smaller hands. Debossed lettering on the seal depicts the size for those who are colour blind. Soft colours were chosen for the seals as well as cute ear details to make the product aesthetically pleasing as well as approachable as the users will not always be veterinarians.

How it is different

Currently, there is only one style of mask being produced, it features a clear dome with a hard rubber gasket that is pressed hard around the patients snout or face. The rubber components are stiff and come in one circular shape. Somnum takes advantage of the material qualities of silicone. The seal will adapt to the patients profile. The flanges curve inside of the dome so that they flex and grip the snout or face. The seals have cornered edges to prevent the mask from rolling - This would be especially important for smaller, more fragile patients. Somnum, visually, is different from current anaesthesia masks on the market. It has an inviting and soft aesthetic, as many of those who will use the product are not veterinarians but are nurses and assistants. No masks currently available feature a collapsable top to prevent dead space. This increases the range of patients that can use each mask without having to scale up to another mask size.

Future plans

Currently, there are 2 prototyped sizes that fit domestic animals (cats, dogs, rabbits). I would like to continue to work on different sizes as well as seal shapes. My research has shown there is a massive opportunity to expand the range into both exotic species and avians. I, personally, would like to look further into developing avian solutions. The masks still need to be further refined before being tested but that would be a critical step in the further development of the product. The long-term plan for Somnum is that it can eventually make its way into clinical practices and be used to better both the patients' and human users' lives.


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