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Oxygen Concentrators – How Are They Helping The COVID-19 Patients?

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As India is grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, people are running from pillar to post to arrange hospital and ICU beds, life-saving medications, ventilators and most importantly ‘oxygen’, to save their loved ones. 

Arranging these basic necessities is so tough today because the availability of all these things is way less than what the country actually requires to win this battle.

In these testing times, Oxygen Concentrators have turned out to be a “saviour” for the people who are mildly affected with COVID-19 and are trying to recover in home isolation, owing to the shortage of hospital beds.

What is an oxygen concentrator?

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that is generally bigger in size than a computer monitor. It works by concentrating oxygen from the ambient air and aiding the patient in breathing easily. 

How does it work?

In today’s polluted world, atmospheric air contains about 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. The last one percent consists of various other gases.

An oxygen concentrator sucks this air, filters it through a sieve/filter, and releases the nitrogen back into the atmosphere. The filtered oxygen is given to the patient through a cannula.

The studies have shown that these concentrators produce 90-95 percent pure oxygen. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015 stated, “Concentrators can operate and produce oxygen 24 hours a day continuously, and may last up to five years.”

When does a patient need concentrators?

As most of the states in India are facing scarcity of oxygen right now, people should start taking the help of concentrators when their oxygen saturation level drops below 94 percent. Notably, oxygen saturation level between 94-100 percent is considered safe and healthy.

These concentrators are effective on patients whose saturation level doesn’t drop below 90 percent, but they can be of help even for those with oxygen saturation dropping as low as 85 percent. Patients, whose oxygen level drops below this point, will require a better flow of oxygen than these concentrators can offer.

How good are these concentrators?

The experts claim that oxygen concentrators are not as good as Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO), which are 99 percent pure and are a good option for mild to moderate COVID-19 patients, whose oxygen saturation level is at 90 percent or above.

The experts say that these are not appropriate for ICU patients.

What are the types of oxygen concentrators?

Basically, there are two types of concentrators – continuous flow and pulse dose.

Continuous flow concentrators keep supplying the same flow of oxygen every minute if it is not turned off. The pulse dose concentrators are a little smarter and read the breathing pattern of the patient and release O2 on detecting inhalation. In the second type, the per-minute oxygen dispensation will vary.

How are these different from oxygen cylinders and LMO?

These are the best alternatives of the cylinders and LMO, which are very tough to be transported and stored. Moreover, cylinders require to be refilled but concentrators can keep producing oxygen for up to five years or more, using just the ambient air and a power source.

The only drawback with the concentrators is that they can only supply 5-10 litres of oxygen per minute, while the critical patients may require 40-45 litres per minute.

How much do they cost?

The cost of these concentrators varies depending upon how much oxygen they produce per minute. Their cost may vary between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 90,000 in different markets.

What to check while renting or buying oxygen concentrators?

As per the experts, if a patient is given one-litre oxygen through a concentrator, the oxygen percentage in the lungs shoots up to 24 percent, while with two litres, it reaches 28 percent, and with 10 litres, it rises up to 60 percent. The oxygen per minute has to be regulated as per the requirement.

The patient must consult a physician to know how many litres per minute of oxygen is needed, and a pulse oximeter is also necessary to monitor the oxygen saturation.

The quality of oxygen produced depends upon the number of sieves/filters used in the concentrator, and their quality is not measured by their weight but by litre per minute output. The ideal weight of these concentrators is less than 27 kgs.

If the concentrator gets heated while working, the quality of oxygen produced may deplete. Hence, it should be used only when required.

Takeaway

The coronavirus pandemic has given a huge boost to the oxygen concentrator sales in India, as their demand has shot up shockingly. Earlier, where the demand was 40,000 concentrators annually, now it has gone up to 30,000-40,000 a month.

Well, oxygen concentrators have been an essential part of every home in China where there are people over 65 years of age. With COVID-19 infecting about 4 lakh people on a daily basis, these concentrators can really help the Indian healthcare system from collapsing.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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