BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to a novel head gear apparatus and more particularly to a head gear apparatus that will comfortably and successfully maintain a nasal mask; generally used for treatment of breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, ventilation difficulties, anesthetic gas administration, and the like. The head gear apparatus is unobtrusive and will adequately and efficiently allow pressure adjustments to the particular mask for providing an air tight seal.
2. Description of the Prior Art
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that is broken into three categories: obstructive, central and mixed, wherein obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. In obstructive sleep apnea there is a blockage in the airway. This blockage is generally caused by the soft tissue in the rear of the throat that collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, there is no blockage, but rather the brain fails to signal to the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea is a hybrid of obstructive and central apnea.
Regardless of which category, individuals with sleep apnea will frequently stop breathing while sleeping. An inadequate amount of oxygen will be supplied to their body, preventing a restful night of sleep. This will result in any one or any combination of the following symptoms of sleep apnea: restless sleep; very loud snoring, often interrupted by silence and then gasps; falling asleep while driving; falling asleep during the day; morning headaches; loss of energy; trouble concentrating; irritability or shortness of temper; forgetfulness; mood or behavior changes; anxiety or depression; and decreased interest in sex. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of heat disease or stroke.
Several options are available for treating sleep apnea. One option is to surgically remove or shrink the tissue causing the obstruction in the throat. Non-surgical treatment includes the application of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This device is a mask, as shown in FIG. 1, which the patient wears during sleep. The mask 10 is snuggly fitted on the patient and is designed to be placed centrally over the nose and mouth and is secured via conventional straps. The mask is coupled to a blower that sends a light stream of air pressure into the throat. This light stream of air pressure will prevent airway obstruction and thus enable the wearer to get a proper amount of sleep.
As seen in the figure, the mask comprises a mask frame 12 having a mask cushion 14 secured to the perimeter of the mask frame. Extending upwardly from the frame is the forehead support tab 16 having channels 18 a therein for receiving the conventional head gear, also known as the strap. Secured to the front of the mask frame are head gear clips 20. These clips each include a channel 18 b that are designed for receiving the conventional head gear. Located on the mask frame is a portal (illustrated, but not labeled) for receiving the valve assembly for coupling the mask to the blower.
The head gear 22 includes an upper portion 24 a, that is adapted to removably extend into the channels of the forehead support tab, and a lower portion 24 b, that is adapted to removably extend into the head gear clip. The upper and lower portions are coupled via middle section 24 c to form a unitary structure. The head gear is flexible and is adapted to extend through the appropriated channel. This will provide for the rear of the head gear to contact the front of the strap when located therein. The rear and front are fabricated from cooperating hook and loop material to provide for the rear of the head gear to be removably secured to the front, and thus provide for the head gear to be in a fixed position when contact between the front and rear is accomplished, as shown.
Though somewhat effective, this strap design does have some shortcomings, in that adjustments must be made by removing an end of the strap and re-adjusting the particular end. Each end must be removed and re-attached in order to achieve the airtight seal. Using this type of strap can be cumbersome and tedious, resulting in a frustrating and unsuccessful attachment. During sleep, the straps can easily loosen and cause the seal to be broken, thus defeating the intent of the mask. In addition, removing the four strap mask requires the cumbersome step of loosening the lower strap, which requires the user to spend a greater time awake adjusting the mask. Finally, because the lower straps must be loosened for removal, the prior art four strap mask requires tedious readjustment each time the mask is removed.
What is needed is a strap that can be retrofitted onto the existing mask and one that is easy to attach and adjust. This strap should provide successful results yet be simple in design and comfortable to wear.
As will be seen, the present invention achieves its intended purposes, objectives and advantages by accomplishing the needs as identified above, through a new, useful and unobvious combination of component elements, which is simple to use, with the utilization of a minimum number of functioning parts, at a reasonable cost to manufacture, assemble, test and by employing only readily available material.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is a head gear apparatus designed and configured to be removably secured to a conventional mask. The conventional mask being a nasal mask generally used for the treatment of breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, ventilation difficulties, anesthetic gas administration, and the like. When attached to the user, the head gear apparatus of the present invention will be comfortable, unobtrusive and will adequately and efficiently allow pressure adjustments to the particular mask for providing an air tight seal between the wearer and the mask.
In order to provide for an adequate attachment, the present invention comprises a mainframe having a flexible strap secured thereto. The mainframe comprises a first portion and a second portion. The first portion being secured to the left of the mask and the second portion being secured to the right of the mask. Each portion is substantially identical in structure.
Each portion includes a central shaft. This shaft is substantially rigid and is coated with or is fabricated from a material possessing a high resistance to friction. This shaft will receive the strap and the resistive material will prevent and aid the strap from moving when secured thereto.
Perpendicularly located on the lower end of each shaft is a flange. Secured to the outer end of the flange is a receiving member. This receiving member aligns with the existing channel of the head gear clips located on the conventional mask. Conventional attaching devices are removably inserted into the receiving member and channel in order to lock and secure the lower portion of the mainframe to the existing mask.
Angularly attached to the upper end of each shaft is an extension. Located at the opposite end of each extension is a second set of receiving members. Each receiving member aligns with the existing channel of the forehead support tabs located on the conventional mask. Conventional attaching devices are removably inserted into the receiving member and channel in order to lock and secure the upper portion of the mainframe to the existing mask.
Dependent upon the brand of mask utilized, the outer end of each flange and each extension can dip downwardly. This will provide for the receiving members to be located behind the shaft and render a more comfortable and adequate fit between the present invention, mask and user of the particular mask.
Once the mainframe is secured to the mask, a strap secures the mask to the wearer. Due to the solid and rigid structure of the mainframe, a singular and elongated strap is all that is needed for an adequate fit and one that will render an air tight seal between the wearer and the mask. The resilient strap includes two ends; each end will be secured to the shaft of the mainframe. Each end can be removably secured, or optionally, one end can be permanently attached thereto. This will reduce the steps for attaching the device for each use.
To utilize the present invention, the mainframe is secured to the upper and lower areas of the conventional mask. Once attached, removal and re-adjustment of the mainframe is not necessary. When secured, the user places the mask over their nose and mouth. An end of the strap is attached to one of the shafts and the second end is taken and wrapped around the user's head to the second shaft. This second end is secured to the second shaft. Once secured, if adjustments are needed, the user merely lifts the first end and/or second end of the attached strap in the desired direction (upward or downward), until an airtight seal is met. Thereby providing adequate pressure around the perimeter of the mask. The mask may be easily removed without adjustment by lifting the mask offjust as a baseball catcher would quickly remove a catcher's mask while chasing a foul ball.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a head gear apparatus designed and configured to be adequately, successfully and comfortably secured to a conventional mask generally used for the treatment of breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, ventilation difficulties, anesthetic gas administration, and the like.
It is another object of the present invention to provide for a head gear apparatus that will overcome the deficiencies, shortcomings, and drawbacks of prior head gears and attaching methods thereof.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a head gear apparatus that can be easily and efficiently adjusted as well as provide for a head gear apparatus that is non-obtrusive to use and wear.
Yet a further object of the present invention, to be specifically enumerated herein, is to provide a head gear apparatus for use with a conventional nasal mask in accordance with proceeding objects and which will conform to conventional forms of manufacture, be of simple construction and easy to use so as to provide a head gear assembly that would be economically feasible, long lasting and relatively trouble free during utilization.
Although there have been many inventions related to nasal mask that are specifically gear to treat sleep apnea, none of the inventions provide a strap that will efficiency and successfully allow adjustment with a minimal amount of effort. The present invention meets the requirements of the simplified design, compact size, low initial cost, low operating cost, ease of installation and maintainability, and minimal amount of training to successfully employ the invention.
The foregoing has outlined some of the more pertinent objects of the invention. These objects should be construed to be merely illustrative of some of the more prominent features and application of the intended invention. Many other beneficial results can be obtained by applying the disclosed invention in a different manner or modifying the invention within the scope of the disclosure. Accordingly, a fuller understanding of the invention may be had by referring to the detailed description of the preferred embodiments in addition to the scope of the invention defined by the claims taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.