Covid-19: Basic difference between oxygen concentrator and oxygen cylinder, their usage — Explained

The basic difference between a concentrator and a cylinder is the way they provide oxygen.

India is currently facing the second wave of Covid-19 and experts believe that the country is in the middle of the worst phase. With around four lakh new cases of coronavirus infections being reported daily over the past few days, several hospitals across the country are facing a shortage of medical oxygen. This has even led to the death of several patients. The demand has increased subsequently because many hospitals are advising patients to use oxygen at home for a few days at least even after getting discharged from hospitals. Many times, people who are under home isolation also need oxygen support. While many are opting for traditional oxygen cylinders, there are others who go for oxygen concentrators in such cases.

The basic difference between a concentrator and a cylinder is the way they provide oxygen. While oxygen cylinders have a fixed amount of oxygen compressed within them and need refilling, oxygen concentrators can provide an infinite supply of medical-grade oxygen if they continue to have power backup.

In other words, an oxygen concentrator works like an air conditioner. It takes air from our surrounding, modifies it, and then delivers it for use.

According to Dr Tushar Tayal – department of internal medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon – there are two types of concentrators. One that provides the same flow of oxygen regularly unless turned off and is generally called ‘continuous flow,’ and the other one is called ‘pulse’ and gives out oxygen by identifying the breathing pattern of the patient.

“Also, oxygen concentrators are portable and ‘easy to carry’ alternatives to massive oxygen cylinders,” Dr Tayal was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The doctor emphasized that oxygen concentrators are not best suited for those suffering from severe comorbidities and complications. “This is because they can generate only 5-10 liters of oxygen per minute. This may not be enough for patients with severe complications.”

Dr Tayal said that oxygen support can be initiated either with an oxygen concentrator or oxygen cylinder when saturation drops below 92 per cent. “But the patient must be immediately shifted to a hospital if there is a fall in saturation despite oxygen support,” he added.

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