With the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis, the shortage of oxygen has taken India by storm. From a crunch in the availability of ICU beds, Remdesivir, and plasma donors to lack of oxygen, India faces severe shortages of medical resources.
In recent times, oxygen concentrators have made their foray into public usage. But are oxygen concentrators similar to ventilators? Can they be used as a substitute? This article will deal with oxygen concentrators and ventilators, their functioning, use, and the differences between oxygen concentrators and ventilators.
An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that utilises environmental air, concentrates it, and delivers oxygen from it to individuals who require supplemental oxygen due to decreased concentration of oxygen in their blood. It works by taking in air from the surroundings, removing the nitrogen from it using filter and sieve beds, and then delivering pure oxygen that the patient can inhale via an oxygen mask or a nasal cannula. A pressure valve helps regulate the oxygen an individual can receive, ranging from 1 to 10 litres/min. It is a one-time investment, costing between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 90,000.
Any respiratory condition in which individuals have difficulty breathing due to a lack of ability to absorb an adequate amount of oxygen, such as pneumonia, asthma, sleep apnoea, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), will require an oxygen concentrator.
A mechanical ventilator is a machine that delivers oxygen into the lungs of individuals who have respiratory failure or difficulty in respiration. An artificial airway connects the patient to the ventilator. The ventilator has a variety of settings to meet the respiratory needs of patients.
A mechanical ventilator has multiple purposes, such as delivering high amounts of concentrated oxygen to individuals, reducing the breathing effort in individuals who have weak respiratory muscles, or any injury to the brain or spinal cord that prevents them from breathing by themselves. It also assists patients who are combating infections and helps with their recovery.
Differences Between Oxygen Concentrators and Ventilators
An oxygen concentrator provides a higher concentration of oxygen to individuals who have low levels of oxygen. The difference between an oxygen concentrator and a ventilator is that a ventilator assists with respiration and takes charge of a patient’s breathing to allow them rest while their body heals. An oxygen concentrator does not assist in respiration but only provides a higher oxygen concentration, more than the standard 21% present in atmospheric air.
An oxygen concentrator is non-invasive and can be administered via an oxygen mask or a nasal cannula. In contrast, to use a ventilator, an invasive method is needed. An endotracheal tube has to be inserted, or a tracheostomy is performed to put the patient on the machine.
The difference between an oxygen concentrator and a ventilator is that an oxygen concentrator provides oxygen without any force and is inhaled with the individual’s efforts, whereas a ventilator uses force provided by the machine to push air into the patient’s lungs.
The two also differ in their approach and mode of working. The oxygen concentrator has two approaches to oxygen delivery: continuous and pulse flow. In continuous flow, the concentrator continuously provides oxygen, whereas, in pulse flow, oxygen is provided only when the individual inhales. The ventilator has various settings to suit an individual’s needs, such as controlling lung pressure, the concentration of oxygen, duration, and the rate of breaths required.
The difference between the oxygen concentrator and ventilator is that oxygen concentrators are portable, and some can be taken along when one is mobile or on short journeys, whereas ventilators are not portable.
The difference between an oxygen concentrator and a ventilator is that oxygen concentrators use an electric source or a battery, which can last for 3 to 24 hours based on the usage, whereas ventilators can only function with electricity.
An oxygen concentrator is inexpensive to operate as it does not require a professional’s constant oversight. With good care, it can last for about 5-7 years. Maintenance involves cleaning the air filters to increase the lifespan and avoid grime and dirt from getting into the device. In contrast, a ventilator requires a health care professional to operate it, and it requires maintenance.
An oxygen concentrator and a ventilator also differ in the monitoring required when a patient is using them. When a patient is using an oxygen concentrator, only the oxygen saturation will have to be monitored, which can be done with a pulse oximeter. However, when a patient is on a ventilator, several things need to be checked constantly. These include ABGs (arterial blood gases), suctioning of the airway, blood pressure, review ventilator settings as per the patient’s condition, infection prevention, the patient’s nutritional needs, pain management, etc.
From the above points, it is clear that oxygen concentrators and mechanical ventilators are similar with respect to providing oxygen for medical purposes. However, they differ in their methods of administration, functionality, portability, and functioning. Depending on what your need is, you can choose the device that would suit you.
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