Oxygen Cylinders and Concentrators: Saving People’s Lives during the COVID-19 Crisis
The medical oxygen therapy has become a core part of treatment for severe COVID-19 patients. A number of patients are dependent on oxygen cylinders and concentrators in these COVID-19 pandemic. Oxygen cylinders and concentrators both benefits the patients by delivering oxygen but their methods of delivery are different from each other. Both these oxygen supply systems are playing a crucial role in saving patients’ lives in this unprecedented and uncertain situation.
The spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19 all across the globe has reached a pandemic level. A huge number of cases have been reported and there are still many, which are going undetected as testing has only recently become accessible. Individuals dependent on oxygen cylinders and concentrators or oxygen therapy are considered at high risk for contracting COVID-19 disease. Thus, medical oxygen therapy has become a core part of treatment for severe COVID-19 patients, particularly, in the middle-and low-income countries. This is because the supplies of oxygen cylinders and concentrators are likely to be inadequate in these trying times.
According to the Research Dive published report, the global oxygen cylinders and concentrators market is estimated to witness a positive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The affordable and sustainable supply of oxygen cylinders and concentrators to the hospitals has long been neglected in healthcare services, especially in the low and middle income countries. However, with the increased attention towards oxygen supply brought by COVID-19 has brought an opportunity to build a sophisticated infrastructure in order to deliver oxygen in a systematic manner.
Role of Oxygen Cylinders and Concentrators
There are various methods in which oxygen can be supplied to hospitals. These include tanks of compressed liquid oxygen (LOX), on-site PSA (pressure swing adsorption) plants, compressed gas cylinders, and oxygen concentrators. Carefully considering the context that includes health system infrastructure, available financing, and skilled health care work force should go into recognizing the most appropriate option.
In normal circumstances, a mix of storage devices and oxygen production would be recommended to supply oxygen to patients and it is not different for COVID-19 response planning. For instance, the commonly used 5 lpm (liter per minute) oxygen cylinder and concentrator may be appropriate for treatment of some severe cases of COVID-19 disease. However, it may not be suitable for many critically ill patients. Hence, a nuanced approach to procurement and supply planning that accounts for the diverse oxygen flow rate requirements is suggested. The two commonly used oxygen sources and storage options used during these trying times are:
- Oxygen Cylinders
Generally, oxygen cylinders are commonly viewed as a cost efficient oxygen source and are supplied periodically by an oxygen generation plant. However, delivery costs and cylinder rental fees add up substantially overtime. In order to deliver oxygen via cylinders, a certified pool of cylinders for supplying medical oxygen service and complex logistics to transport these cylinders by reprocessing and returning used cylinders. However, in case of emergencies such as lockdown now in place in various countries, the delivery of oxygen cylinders may face bigger risks of disruption. Therefore, the developed countries choose oxygen concentrators over cylinders owing to its various benefits such as safety, consistency, size, and cost-effectiveness.
- Oxygen Concentrators
The oxygen concentrators are easy & quick to install, self-contained, and once installed are not reliant on periodic resupply. Therefore, oxygen concentrators have been the most popular form oxygen supply systems during the COVID-19 chaos. However, oxygen concentrators requires maintenance and continuous reliable power to function. Since patient safety is important and requires an uninterrupted supply of oxygen, the low- and middle- income countries prefer oxygen cylinders due to regular power cuts. As oxygen concentrators usually do not have backup batteries, a power cut of any duration short or long disrupts oxygen therapy that can prove fatal for patients. Therefore, concentrators should only be chosen as a source of oxygen when they are accompanied by a continuous and reliable power supply, whether a solar power inverter, standby generator, or a back-up battery.
Why Oxygen Concentrators are Gaining Popularity During COVID-19 Pandemic
Oxygen cylinders and concentrators both benefits the patients by delivering oxygen but their methods of delivery are different from each other. Oxygen cylinders were more prevalent for the last few years, but today, the oxygen concentrators are gaining popularity amongst both patients and doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic
The various benefits offered by oxygen concentrators over cylinders include:
- Consistency: An oxygen concentrator can never run out of oxygen as long as it has power supply and air available. Whereas, an oxygen cylinder can run out of oxygen when the filled gas is wholly utilized by a patient. The major benefit of an oxygen concentrator is it extracts oxygen from the air itself, making the supply readily available and unlimited.
- Safety: The oxygen cylinders could begin to leak, which increase the risk of fire and disruption. This is not the case with oxygen concentrators, as they simply create oxygen when required, which eliminates the concern of leaks.
- Size: The oxygen concentrators are designed for portability and convenience and thus, weighs much less. On the other hand, the oxygen cylinders are heavy and bulky.
The oxygen concentrators are a great choice for all the above reasons. However, individuals should also consider oxygen cylinders as a backup in case of power outrage. Thus, the oxygen cylinders and concentrators are playing a crucial role in this unprecedented and uncertain situation by saving people’s lives.