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Protecting OR Staff from Aerosolized Virus

What is PORSAV?

PORSAV is an innovation action project funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, as part of Europe’s urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project takes a novel technology for surgical safety from prototype stage to mass production and distribution.


The Problem

When surgeons carry out laparoscopic (‘keyhole’) surgery, they operate through a small hole in the body, most often in the stomach wall; surgical instruments and cameras are operated through a tube (the ‘trocar’) that holds the incision open. The patient’s body is inflated with carbon dioxide gas, to give the surgeon room to see and to operate. However, small amounts of this gas can escape around the edges of the trocar, and be released into the air of the operating room. In the time of COVID, such ‘aerosols’ can contain viral particles. This endangers the surgeons and also deposits the virus on operating room surfaces. These viral aerosols have a huge impact on the availability of surgery, the protocols that need to be followed, and the time taken to clean the operating room between procedures.


Key Tools

An important research innovation by researchers at University College of Dublin (UCD) has been the use of a particular form of photography (‘Schlieren imaging’) which can see ‘invisible’ aerosols in the air. This has already been used to demonstrate the spread of droplets from breathing, coughing and sneezing.

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Palliare have developed a vacuum ring, the ‘LeakTrapTM’ which sits around the trocar, and captures any stray leaks around the trocar site. These are then piped away for correct disposal. A similar device (the EndoTrapTM) has been developed to protect surgeons carrying out endoscopies from the breath, coughing or sneezing of their patients. The new project will produce thousands of LeakTrapsTM and EndoTrapsTM, and will see them used in ORs around the world.


The Project

The PORSAV project will carry out extensive clinical validation of the new technology, using UCD’s Schlieren-imaging technology to show how leaks are captured and dealt with. This will then be used by IRCAD to train surgeons around the world on how to reduce the risks of COVID in the OR. SteriPack will mass-produce the disposable tubing in Poland, while the vacuum technology is manufactured by Palliare in Galway. Pintail provides project management and administration.

By increasing our understanding and knowledge of surgical aerosol leaks, and capturing these leaks with innovative medical devices, PORSAV makes the operating theatre a safer space for surgeons and patients, and enables surgery services to be re-opened in the wake of the pandemic.

Project in a nutshell

PORSAV takes existing prototype devices for capturing viral aerosols produced in surgery and endoscopy, and validates them in a substantial clinical study. The results of this study, which includes extensive innovative imaging to record and analyse aerosols in the operating room, are then used to train surgeons across the world in how to protect themselves and OR teams from COVID-19 aerosols, from surgical smoke, and from other hazards. The project includes the mass production and distribution of the new devices, thus benefiting healthcare immediately. The project includes

  • Prototype LeakTrapTM and EndoTrapTM devices from Palliare
  • Schlieren imaging of aerosols and leaks from UCD
  • Clinical validation in Dublin (UCD/Mater) and Strasbourg (IRCAD/NHC)
  • Mass production and certified quality control at SteriPack
  • Communication, Dissemination and Training (IRCAD)


During keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery, the abdomen is inflated with CO2 gas. This can escape, carrying viral particles, around the edges of the keyhole incision. These viral aerosols are a health risk for surgeons and nurses, and can also contaminate OR surfaces.

An advanced form of imaging that captures otherwise invisible air movements and aerosols. Widely utilised in aeronautical engineering, recent technology innovations at UCD have made it practicable to use Schlieren imaging in a surgical setting

COVID-19 aerosols and leaks in the operating room are a major risk factor for surgical teams, and have led to the cancellation and cessation of much routine surgery. This has serious long-term impacts for patients and healthcare systems. Enabling surgery to ‘return to normal service’ is critically important.

Before PORSAV technology will be adopted by hospitals, we first have to demonstrate that it works. Much of this project will be dedicated to Schlieren-filming the use of PORSAV devices during surgery, demonstrating that they capture and control aerosols and other leaks.

COVID aerosols are not the only operating-room danger. Surgical smoke and small particles produced by the use of energy generating devices, such as electrocautery or laser may contain carcinogens and/or irritants. By capturing and controlling these contaminants, PORSAV offers further safety benefits.


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