Medical oxygen can be delivered in a variety of formats to patients, including both tank and tankless methods. Traditional compressed tanks are still widely used, and the use of oxygen concentrators is also popular among many patients. Another less-common format is the use of liquid oxygen conversion to gas; this modality has several advantages, but its use requires an understanding of its limitations and special considerations. Below is more information about liquid oxygen medical therapy and what you should know about it:
How is liquid oxygen stored and utilized
If oxygen gas is cooled to a temperature of nearly minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit, it will liquify and can be stored in an insulated container for an extended period of time. For the purpose of oxygen therapy, containers holding approximately 10 gallons of liquid oxygen are installed inside the patient's home. These containers are refilled as needed by home medical equipment suppliers, though most users receive refills once every week or two.
Once delivered to the home, the patient or caregiver fills smaller containers that can be kept close for metered delivery of the oxygen. These special containers convert the oxygen back to a gas, where it is then delivered via a cannula, face mask or other appropriate appliance.
Advantages of using liquid oxygen in medical therapy
Ease of storing large quantities of oxygen
The chief advantage of using liquid oxygen for at-home therapy is the ability to store a relatively large amount of oxygen in a confined space. A unit of liquid oxygen is equivalent to about 860 times the same amount of gaseous oxygen in the free atmosphere. This fact offers a tremendous advantage for high volume users of oxygen, as it frees them up from being forced to store an extensive number of compressed gas tanks in their homes.
Safe option for storing oxygen
Liquid oxygen is also safe to store and use in the home. It is kept at lower pressures than compressed oxygen gas, and there is also a lower likelihood of an accident involving a "runaway" container. In the event of a fire, liquid oxygen is more likely to simply evaporate than contribute to the combustive process.
Weighs less than compressed tanks
Since so much gaseous oxygen can be derived from a given unit of liquid oxygen, that means users don't need to carry as much liquid oxygen with them to gain the same benefit. Portable containers are a lot lighter than filled metal tanks and are also less bulky during transit.
Along with compressed oxygen, a big advantage offered by liquid oxygen therapy is that no electrical power is required for delivery to the patient. In fact, the pressure of the evaporating liquid is sufficient for pushing the oxygen to the patient through the system. Power outages don't prevent patients from receiving their oxygen, and there is less expense involved with the oxygen delivery process since no household current is needed.
Disadvantages of using liquid oxygen in therapy
While liquid oxygen therapy has multiple advantages associated with it, there are a few disadvantages to be aware of before using it in the home. Below are the potential problems to keep in mind:
Availability is limited in some locations
Liquid oxygen suitable for medical applications may not be available in all locales. Unlike compressed oxygen tank suppliers, you may need to look beyond your community to find a company willing and able to deliver liquid oxygen.
Mishandling can cause injuries
Another potential pitfall with using liquid oxygen is the presence of risk of injury should it be misused. While liquid oxygen is less of a fire hazard, its extreme cold temperatures can cause blistering and frostbite on exposed skin.
Restrictions on travel
A disadvantage associated with using liquid oxygen is that it may be prohibited from being carried on flights. This limitation also exists with gaseous oxygen held in compressed air tanks, though oxygen concentrators are likely to be approved for use on board on an aircraft.
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