As India battles the 2nd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge of new infections has resulted in an alarming increase in the number of active cases. The resultant stress on our public health infrastructure has led to a big spike in demand for oxygen concentrators.
Oxygen level is measured by oxygen saturation, known briefly as SpO2. This is a measure of the amount of oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood. A healthy individual with normal lungs, will have an arterial oxygen saturation of 95% – 100%.
According to a WHO training manual on pulse oximetry, if the oxygen saturation is 94% or lower, the patient needs to be treated quickly. A saturation of less than 90% is a clinical emergency.
Now, according to the latest clinical guidance for management of adult COVID-19 patients, issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, an oxygen concentration less than or equal to 93% on room air requires hospital admission, while that below 90% is classified as a severe disease, requiring admission in ICU. However, given the prevalent situation in the wake of the 2nd wave, we must do whatever we best can, in order to try and replenish our oxygen levels, in the event of delay or inability in getting hospital admission as per the clinical management protocol.
So, who can use them, and when?
Does this mean that anyone who finds their oxygen level falling below acceptable levels can use a concentrator and help oneself? Absolutely not.
Speaking to PIB on the appropriate usage of concentrators, Professor and Head of Department Anaesthesia, B. J. Medical College, Pune, Prof. Sanyogita Naik said: “Oxygen concentrators can be used only in moderate cases of COVID-19, when the patient experiences drop in oxygen levels, where the oxygen requirement is a maximum of 5 litres per minute.”
The professor added that oxygen concentrators are also very useful for patients experiencing post-COVID complications which necessitate oxygen therapy.