The Importance of Negative Pressure Rooms

Negative pressure rooms, also called isolation rooms, are a type of hospital room designed to prevent airborne microorganisms in the room from entering hallways and corridors. They are a common method of infection control used to isolate patients with contagious, airborne diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. These rooms keep patients with infectious illnesses away from other patients, visitors and frontline workers.

They are called negative pressure rooms because the air pressure inside the room is lower than the air pressure outside the room. When the door to a negative pressure room is opened, non-contaminated filtered air will flow into the room while any harmful particles and/or potentially contaminated air located inside the room is sucked out with exhaust systems. These systems are built with filters that clean the air before it’s released outside and away from the building.

At this point, we know that it’s much more common for a virus like COVID-19 to be spread as a result of coming into close contact with an infected person. However, evidence does show that airborne transmission between two people more than 6 feet apart is possible under certain conditions like being in an enclosed space with inadequate ventilation while the infected person is breathing heavily. For example, while exercising or singing or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The use of a negative pressure room creates a crucial barrier between infected patients and healthcare workers or other vulnerable patients.

As we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, negative pressure rooms have been in short supply in hospitals. Only 2% to 4% of all hospital rooms in the U.S. are equipped for negative pressure. While the science behind creating these rooms is simple, the execution and cost of creating more of them can take quite a toll on many hospitals.

Additional information on negative pressure rooms can be found by visiting the following sites: