All about oxygen therapies you need to know
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(COPD) is the colloquial name given to a group of progressive lung diseases that obstruct air flow, thus making it difficult for the patient to breathe normally. The most prevalent ones are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although there are cases where the patient has just one of the two, a lot of people tend to have both; one is a symptom of the other or vice versa. The biggest cause of COPD is smoking. It gradually destroys the air sacs in the lungs which interfere with outward flow of air; this makes exhaling difficult.
Presently, there is no known remedy or cure for COPD. COPD oxygen therapy, along with other medication is the usual go-to treatment prescribed by doctors and health professionals to ease symptoms and lower the chances of the patient developing severe complications down the line.
There are three types of COPD oxygen therapy that a patient can opt for. Here is a detailed rundown of all of them along with their pros and cons:
- Compressed Oxygen Gas Cylinders
The way of using compressed oxygen gas in pressurized cylinders which are made up of aluminum is the traditional way of dispensing oxygen to the patient. The tank has a set amount of oxygen in it and a regulator valve to control the flow of oxygen to increase the rate of flow or decrease it to manageable levels. It must be remembered that the oxygen cylinders are high-pressure cylinders, so they need to be handled with extreme care. They must be kept upright compulsorily at all times and make sure to avoid any leakages from the regulator or the valve.
- Pros: By virtue of this being the traditional method of oxygen therapy, it is a relatively inexpensive way of doing the same. It is also easy to use and can be carried outside by using the larger tank to fill small, portable tanks for usage when larger tanks are impractical to carry around.
- Cons: That said, large pressurized oxygen tanks have inherent potential hazard written all over them. One little fault in handling can cause worrisome levels of damage; there are always numerous safety risks, explosion and fire hazards associated with the use of compressed oxygen tanks. Besides this, the sizes of the tanks make them impractical for travel purposes and require ample space to be kept in the house too.
- Liquid Oxygen
This method uses the property of gas that enables it to change states of matter when exposed to freezing point level of temperatures. Oxygen gets converted from gaseous to liquid form between -200°C to -220°C. Another property of matter comes into play here again. Liquids take up less space than even compressed gases; this further reduces the size of the tanks required to carry the liquid oxygen around. This makes it easier to carry around in portable oxygen tanks as well.
- Pros: As mentioned earlier, due to the oxygen being liquid this time, it takes up less space, and the size of the tanks is reduced even further, thus, increasing the portability factor of this type of oxygen therapy.
- Cons: It takes a lot of expensive high tech equipment to convert oxygen from its natural gaseous state to liquid. This increases the cost of the COPD oxygen therapy for the end consumer making it an expensive form of COPD oxygen therapy. The tanks also have less shelf life owing to the tendency of oxygen to evaporate quickly when exposed to room temperature. It usually does not last for more than a couple of weeks out in the open. Due to this, the tanks require regular refilling, making it a rather expensive affair. And to add to that, the usage instructions have been reported to be hard to follow and remember for most patients.
- Oxygen Concentrators
An oxygen concentrator is an electrical medical device which sucks air from the room and then sends it to the patient. Oxygen concentrators are medical devices that run on electricity. The method of working of the device, in layman’s terms can be described as extracting the atmospheric air from the room the device is placed in and delivering the oxygen extracted from it directly to the patient. It has a regulator and a flow meter built into it that allows you to set the rate of flow of oxygen. This method is also used in hospitals where oxygen tanks are not readily available.
- Pros: This is the most relatively inexpensive method of COPD oxygen therapy out of all the three methods. It takes up less space and is typically just about the size of the end table commonly seen in hospitals. It also does not require refilling since it draws oxygen from atmospheric air.
- Cons: The biggest concern is that oxygen concentrators are not portable and can’t be used to fill tanks either. They need electricity to be used, and the risk of a power outage could be worrisome. Some concentrators are also prone to heating up and being noisy
These are the types of oxygen delivery methods used in COPD oxygen therapy. It is advisable to choose COPD oxygen therapy that fits your needs well.