Oxygen Concentrators

Oxygen Concentrators

If you are wondering about what an oxygen concentrator is and how it works, then let me tell you are on the right page. Here you are going to educate yourself regarding oxygen concentrators and their difference from oxygen cylinders.

Now what is an oxygen concentrator?

It is basically a medical device that concentrates oxygen from the ambient air. The ambient air has 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen with the remaining 1% other gases.  It thus takes the ambient air from the atmosphere, releases the nitrogen and other gases back into the air, thus concentrating only the amount of oxygen.

How big an oxygen concentrator is?

Its size is almost like a computer monitor, maybe slightly bigger than that. With the increasing cases all around the world, it has become almost impossible to get oxygen cylinders due to their high demands and less supply. Hence, people can opt for oxygen concentrators instead of oxygen cylinders; provided only if patients are in home isolation or hospitals (not in critical units). The oxygen concentrator is not advisable for critical patients who are in ICU or ventilators. It can provide only 5 to 10 liters of oxygen per minute whereas these critical patients require 40 to 50 liters per minute which can be fulfilled only by oxygen cylinders.

How does an oxygen concentrator works?

An oxygen concentrator takes the atmospheric air which has 21% of oxygen, 78% of nitrogen, and 1% of other gases. Then it filters the ambient air through a sieve and releases the amount of nitrogen and other gases back into the air. Thus, it works on the remaining amount of oxygen and concentrates it, and supplies it to the patients in need. This filtered oxygen is almost 90 to 95% pure and it is dispensed to patients through a cannula. It has a pressure valve in concentrators that helps it to regulate oxygen supply ranging from 1 to 10 liters per minute.

A report by WHO in 2015 has suggested that the design of oxygen concentrators is made in such ways so that they can produce and supply oxygen 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It can even provide pure oxygen for almost up to 5 years easily.

 Is the oxygen released from oxygen concentrators pure?

Though not pure like LMO which provides 99% pure oxygen, it is sound enough for moderate and mild Covid patients whose oxygen saturation levels are 85% or more than that. However, it is not advisable for critical or ICU patients.

A single oxygen concentrator can be attached to multiple tubes in order to serve two Covid patients at a time. However, experts always recommend one concentrator for one as it can carry a risk of cross-infection.

How concentrators differ from Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) and oxygen cylinders?

Oxygen concentrators can be used as the easiest and best alternatives to LMO and cylinders. However, it can only supply 5 to 10 liters of oxygen in a minute whereas critical patients might need 40 to 50 liters in a minute. Thus, in the case of critical patients, oxygen cylinders or LMO cannot be replaced with a concentrator. These are best suited for mild and moderate patients.

Moreover, LMO and oxygen cylinders are not portable and require special temperatures to be stored in cryogenic tankers. Whereas, the concentrators are very much portable and do not require any special temperature or cryogenic atmosphere to store them. You can easily carry them with you while traveling. 

Again cylinders require refilling again and again; thus increasing your costs in regular intervals. Whereas concentrators need not require refilling, it’s a one-time investment that gives you benefits for a longer time. It only requires a power source to take in the ambient air.

How do concentrators different from oxygen cylinders in respect of maintenance and cost?

An oxygen cylinder will cost you around Rs (8,000 to 20,000). However, an oxygen concentrator costs around Rs (40,000 to 90,000); with minimal operational costs. Though expensive than cylinders, it is totally a one-time investment, unlike cylinders which require refilling costs at regular intervals.

Demand of oxygen concentrators

According to experts, the demand for oxygen concentrators has increased from 40,000 yearly to 30,000 to 40,000 monthly. Its daily demand has gone up to 1000 to 2000 a day (As per Dr.Rajiv Nath, the Forum Coordinator of AIMED). However, the supplies of the same are very less as compared to their demands. There are not enough manufacturers who can actually meet the daily demands of concentrators.

The concentrators are largely imported from abroad, Longfian Scitech and Philips being the big players of the international markets.

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