An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that is used to saturate the blood with oxygen. With an oxygen concentrator, a person can breathe independently with a concentrated oxygen mixture.

Why do I need an oxygen concentrator?

Therapy with oxygen is used in diseases accompanied by disorders of breathing processes (ventilation of lungs and gas exchange in their vessels), and also in situations when independent breathing is not possible (during and after surgical interventions, with injuries, disorders of consciousness). There are noninvasive (external) and invasive (with oxygen delivery directly to the lower airways) methods of oxygen support. Non-invasive oxygen therapy is carried out with the help of devices for oxygen breathing: oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders and bags, devices for supplying oxygen to the airways under pressure, as well as through the centralized oxygen supply system in hospitals. Invasive oxygen therapy includes artificial lung ventilation (ALV).

An oxygen concentrator is a handy, portable device for saturating your lungs with oxygen. You can use the oxygen concentrator not only in medical institutions, but also to breathe oxygen at home.

Working Principle of the Oxygen Concentrator

The oxygen content in the air is 21%. The oxygen concentrator works by creating a stream of pure oxygen for breathing. The air from the external environment flows through the water tanks of the oxygen concentrator, in which a breathing mixture with an oxygen content of about 95% is formed. The oxygen mixture is humidified and fed to the patient through special tubes.

Oxygen can be breathed through an oxygen mask that covers the nose and mouth, or through nasal cannulas (tubes that are inserted into the nostrils). The use of nasal cannulas allows you to take food and water and to speak freely without interrupting the oxygen therapy process.

Indications for the oxygen concentrator

An oxygen support machine is necessary for respiratory (pulmonary) failure. Respiratory failure is a pathological condition in which the level of oxygen in the blood (saturation) decreases and oxygen starvation of organs and tissues develops.

Oxygen concentrator may be necessary for acute and chronic diseases of the cardiovascular and pulmonary system. Indications for the use of oxygen therapy through an oxygen concentrator include:

  • acute respiratory distress syndrome;
  • Viral and bacterial pneumonia (including that caused by Covid-19);
  • bronchial asthma;
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • bronchiolitis;
  • bronchiectatic disease;
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis;
  • cystic fibrosis;
  • pulmonary edema;
  • heart failure.

Decrease of oxygen in blood is accompanied by complaints of dyspnea and shortness of breath. Decrease of saturation is also accompanied by rapid breathing and heartbeat, pallor and bluish tint of skin (first of all lips and fingertips turn blue), pronounced weakness, cardiac pain and feeling of anxiety.

How high should the saturation be?

Saturation is a measure of the amount of oxygen in the blood. Adult blood oxygen saturation ranges from 95-100%. Blood oxygen levels change with altitude due to the effect of atmospheric pressure on the ability of gases (including oxygen) to dissolve in fluids (blood).

Saturation is measured by pulse oximetry. A portable adult pulse oximeter is usually worn on the finger of the hand. Deviations of saturation from the norm in healthy people can be observed when:

  • The presence of manicure coating on the nails (nail coating materials delay infrared radiation used in the pulse oximeter);
  • Cold fingers (in a cold room, outdoors in cold weather, in Raynaud’s syndrome);
  • finger deformities (e.g., in osteoarthritis);
  • hand tremors (in parkinsonism).

A saturation below 92% is considered critical. Respiratory failure leads to a decrease in oxygen supply to the tissues and organs, resulting in disruption of all body systems. The organs of the central nervous system (brain) are the most affected by the lack of oxygen.

There is no single saturation value that is considered fatal. The acceptability of oxygen deficiency depends on the general health of the organism, the presence of chronic diseases, the duration of respiratory failure (with chronic respiratory failure comes adaptation to the low level of oxygen in the blood), the level of fitness (trained people easily tolerate respiratory failure).

Oxygen concentrator in COVID

Coronavirus infection, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, affects the alveoli of the lungs (the lung sacs in which gas exchange occurs). Coronavirus infection of the lungs leads to interstitial pneumonia, usually bilateral. An area of lung tissue subjected to inflammation cannot participate in the act of breathing, resulting in decreased saturation. The rate of saturation in covid is the same as in healthy people – over 95%.

An oxygen concentrator in covid is necessary if respiratory failure develops. By hooking up to oxygen in covid at the first signs of a decrease in saturation, you can avoid the negative effects of hypoxia and slow the progression of the inflammatory process in the lungs. Breathing oxygen in covid must be done correctly, observing the duration of oxygen therapy and the mode of the machine prescribed by the doctor. Oxygen therapy by breathing oxygen in covid can be required not only in the heat of pneumonia, but also at the stage of dissolving inflammation of the lungs. The duration of treatment is individual and may last more than one month.

Oxygen concentrator for pneumonia

Oxygen support may be necessary for pneumonia of any nature: viral, bacterial, fungal. Oxygen concentrator in pneumonia is indicated only in the presence of respiratory insufficiency.

Oxygen therapy for pneumonia allows you to maintain sufficient oxygen saturation in the blood at a time when the lungs can not cope with the provision of oxygen to the body without external support. Breathing oxygen for pneumonia is necessary until good saturation is restored.

How to breathe properly with an oxygen concentrator?

Recommendations on how to breathe correctly with an oxygen concentrator are given by the doctor who prescribes oxygen therapy. The therapist calculates the amount of oxygen that should be delivered to the airways per unit of time (one minute), depending on the baseline saturation level and the severity of the patient’s condition. In addition to the rate of oxygen flow, the doctor prescribes the mode of oxygenation (continuous, during night sleep or after physical activity). Do not use the oxygen concentrator by yourself without a doctor’s prescription.

There are no absolute contraindications to oxygen therapy through an oxygen concentrator. However, supplemental oxygen at normal saturation levels may be toxic, so oxygenation is contraindicated in patients with pneumonia without signs of respiratory failure. If used incorrectly, an oxygen concentrator can be detrimental to your health.

In case of outpatient treatment and indications for oxygen inhalations, the doctor may recommend to rent an oxygen concentrator for home use for the time of the disease. The oxygen concentrator should only be rented from medical institutions that guarantee the quality of oxygen machines. The oxygen machine must be certified. The oxygen breathing apparatus rented must be equipped with an individual mask or nasal cannulas.