The use of oxygen as a medical treatment is called oxygen therapy, also referred to as supplemental oxygen.
The importance of oxygen for the human body
Oxygen (O2) is an essential requirement for cell functions allowing the production of energy by cells in the different organs and tissues. Respiration defines the different steps leading to the oxygen supply of the blood in the human body and the carbon dioxide elimination from the blood into the air.
When there is a lack of oxygen at the blood level, oxygen therapy can be prescribed as a treatment or preventive measure.
The key phases of respiration
Inhaled air transports O2 into the lungs, where it is distributed to the alveoli.
The alveoli are responsible for diffusing oxygen into the blood via the alveolo-capillary exchange.
Oxygenated blood travels through the arteries to be delivered to the cells.
Expelling carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide follows the opposite pathway from the cells to the blood, from the blood to the lungs and to expired air.
Disruption of oxygen delivery to cells
A disruption in any of the key phases of respiration will interrupt the body's ability to transport oxygen to the cells. This causes an oxygen content deficiency in the blood (hypoxemia), which could cause hypoxia (cellular oxygen supply deficiency).
Persistent oxygen deficiency causes cell and organ dysfunction. It eventually is fatal to the cell, which can cause failure of main organs such as the heart or the brain. Hypoxia is generally a consequence of hypoxaemia. Clinical conditions that can result in a lack of oxygen delivery to the cells include respiratory, cardiac, or blood diseases.
When does oxygen therapy steps in?
In practice, oxygen therapy is decided by healthcare professionals to be delivered to patients in acute care. In order to avoid the potential risk due to overdose (hyperoxia), the medical objective is to adapt precisely the oxygen delivery to the needs of the patient when correcting hypoxia.
Different oxygen sources are available for care facilities to cover the varying needs and uses according to the condition and pathology of the patient.
In emergency cases, the mobility of the oxygen source can be very important. Ambulance crews and first responders need mobile, advanced and reliable medical gas tanks and equipment to carry out complex tasks in urgent care environments.
Available solutions are small oxygen cylinders and resuscitation equipment ready to use for situations of emergency.
This oxygen solution is suited for patients who need oxygen when they are on the move. Greater patient safety is required especially during patient transport to reduce the of oxygen supply interruption.
Some examples of mobility oxygen sources are portable liquid oxygen portable concentrators, or small cylinders.
Stationary oxygen solutions are intended for an oxygen supply to the patient at rest. For large buildings with numerous patients to treat, the medical gas distribution systems (MGDS) is an adequate technology to supply oxygen to multiple patients at the same time.
There are different supply sources, such as oxygen cylinders, oxygen bundles and liquid oxygen tanks.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
The use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a well-established medical procedure. The Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society acknowledged the therapy's efficacy as a treatment for 14 specific conditions. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy promotes healing in these conditions by delivering a high concentration of oxygen quickly and deeply into the affected areas of the body.
The duration of treatment, the number of treatments and the pressure used varies depending on the patient's condition. Treatments using hyperbaric oxygen therapy typically take place in medical facilities or private clinics.
Can oxygen therapy cause any side effects?
Side effects are avoided by the adequate dose and flow decided by the healthcare professional to correct insufficient content of oxygen in the blood.
Is oxygen a renewable source?
Yes, oxygen is a sustainable renewable resource, because it can be restored by natural means faster than it is consumed by humans.
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