Portable oxygen concentrators have started a revolution in the medical oxygen industry, with their use having sky-rocketed over the last five-10 years. Industry experts are optimistic about the future of portable oxygen and that patients will be able to get hold of even better equipment in the future to make their lives as close to normal as technology can allow.
Portable oxygen technology is ever-evolving and improving, with POCs at the heart of it. This is driven by the increasing demand for these devices which in turn has been driven by an increase in diagnosed sufferers requiring oxygen therapy, improved availability and increased affordability. These factors are constantly driving down costs for the industry, allowing them to reinvest to improve devices whose demand then continues to help grow the industry and improve it. However it seems these advancements will come with a little give and take.
Patients and doctors want smaller, lighter, quieter devices that also have a higher oxygen output and a longer battery life. The providers also want in addition more durability, reliability and all at a lower cost.
As with other technologies if you move in one direction to improve a singular feature it often has an negative impact on another and getting the balance is difficult.
The patient is the final target audience and their requirement for freedom will be the ultimate guidance for the future of oxygen technology. They require the freedom to easily fly, drive or boat and do daily activities without worrying about running out of oxygen. Freedom also comes from not waiting on deliveries from the oxygen supplier and all this provides patients with the chance to feel normal again.
A main inhibiting factor on their advancement is the highly competitive nature that the industry has evolved into. This has led to providers dramatically lowering prices in order to maintain market share, which is highly beneficial to the patient however it leaves less money available for re-investment into research to drive improvements. With the steep increasing trend of COPD diagnosis around the world it seems there will be an ever-increasing amount of patients and therefore providers seeking to purchase POC’s which will then still allow for re-investment.
It is hoped that the units will become smaller and lighter with increased battery life which is very important as the current units are not as portal as they could be for end-stage COPD patients.
It is agreed that ‘POCs are still in their genesis’ but the ultimate goal is so that the POC is also the primary oxygen concentrator, so you would only need the one unit.
Making something increasingly portable also brings along other problems and the unit then needs to be made increasingly durable and resistant to banging and dropping and other associated hazards. Replacing a bolt or armrest on a wheelchair is a lot easier and less of an inconvenience to the user than replacing a part in a POC.
Future oxygen technologies will continue to be focused on medically accurate and improved oxygen therapy and delivery/recycling methods but also incorporate much more software and intelligence in the design and lighter weight models. In order for companies to drive down costs more of a focus may also be put on patient maintenance and repair so that parts can be cleaned or replaced easily by the patient and not having to send the unit back and forth to the manufacturer.
Cigarettes on their own are the leading cause of house fires, but add to this the risk of oxygen being stored in the home and the danger dramatically increases.
Over the last few years there have been a staggering number of reports of people on home oxygen therapy being admitted to hospital with facial burns, eyebrows and hair burned off, death, smoke inhalation injuries and fire damage to their homes in the thousands of pounds. These occurred because they or a friend/family member were smoking whilst the patient’s oxygen equipment was in use.
However, do not interpret this to mean that oxygen therapy is something to be afraid of, it just needs to be respected.
General Advice when using oxygen equipment:
• If you’re on oxygen, DO NOT smoke.
• If you live with or visit someone on oxygen, DO NOT smoke around them.
• Stay away from open flames, sparks, and gas (including gas stoves).
• Turn the oxygen off while not in use.
• Avoid petroleum-based products.
• Do not use aerosol sprays nearby.
• Comply with all safety instructions provided by your home medical equipment company.
• Keep your oxygen concentrator in a well-ventilated area.
• Never allow the tubing, cannula, or mask to be covered, as it can result in a build-up of concentrated oxygen.
• Keep the name and number of your home medical equipment provider in a prominent spot for reference.
• Post a sign stating ‘DANGER: No Smoking-Oxygen in Use’ for the benefit of engineers or visitors.
There are also health risks associated with smoking while on oxygen therapy. Smoking is the most common cause of many medical conditions associated with the requirement of oxygen therapy. Smoking got you here therefore it is highly recommended that you put as much effort as possible into trying to give up this harmful addiction, or to at least cut down. Smoking more will just continue to damage your lungs and increase the deterioration of your respiratory capability and make you increasingly more dependent upon supplemental oxygen. Using supplemental oxygen can improve your health and improve your medical condition but if you smoke you are hampering the possible medical benefits of the treatment.
There should be a respectful balance between your own lifestyle choices, your medical needs and the safety of yourself and others around you. Be aware of the dangers and make sure you take all possible safety precautions.
References: http://lambertshc.com and http://scienceblogs.com
Almost every medical treatment has risks and side effects to it, which vary in degree from person to person. The benefit of oxygen therapy is that it is not a foreign drug, we naturally use it everyday and therefore the only side effects will be due to the administration of it or because of the volume of oxygen being inhaled, which as a result dramatically reduces side effects when compared to other medical treatments. There is also the safety aspect of storing and using oxygen as it is highly combustable but as long as you follow the simple common sense safety advice from your provider you will be very safe.
The side effects may include a dry or bloody nose, skin irritation from the nasal cannula or face mask, fatigue, tiredness and morning headaches. Some people only suffer side effects initially upon first use and then they disappear however if these problems persist then all you need to do is to inform your doctor and provider. Depending upon the problems all your doctor may need to do is to alter the oxygen flow rate or length of time you’re using the equipment.
If nose dryness is a problem then you may just require an additional nasal spray or to have a humidifier attached to your equipment to reduce the dryness effect of the oxygen.
If you experience irritation from the mask or cannula then your provider can try other devices that may fit you better and can recommend over-the-counter gels and devices designed to help lessen skin irritation.
If you use transtracheal oxygen therapy then complications can potentially be a bit more serious due to the more invasive way that the oxygen is delivered via a tube inserted into your windpipe a the front of your neck. You may develop mucus balls which can cause coughing and clog the windpipe, infection and injury to the windpipe. However as long as you follow the advice in the proper medical care and correct handling of the tube then this greatly reduces the risk of complications. Such as keeping it clean and to use suction to remove any build-up.
The majority of users find that they experience a little irritation and dryness which can be easily resolved. Their testimonials are clear in saying that the benefits of oxygen therapy such as improved quality of life, improved mobility and social interaction and longevity of life far outweigh the inconvenience of a few side effects.
References: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov and http://www.livestrong.com
A study in mice has suggested that by doing something as simple as breathing in extra oxygen may provide our immune cells with an extra boost to fight cancer.
The immune system often can spot and destroy abnormal cells before they grow into cancer. Normally cancer tumour cells put up defences in order to block our immune system from attacking them. One way they do this is because tumours can grow so rapidly that they outpace their blood supply, creating a low-oxygen environment. By maintaining low oxygen levels inside the tumour, this can increase the production of a molecule that blocks the tumour fighters that our immune system produces, called T cells. Lots of research is under way to develop drugs that could block the production of this molecule adenosine, but researchers at North Eastern University wondered whether adding oxygen to tumours could strip away that defence. So they put mice with lung tumours into chambers that let them breathe oxygen doses mimicking supplemental oxygen therapy doses.
The results showed that tumours shrank more in the high-oxygen group, and even more so when researchers also injected the mice with doses of extra T cells. With the extra oxygen, “you remove the brake pedal” that cancer can put on tumour-fighting immune cells, said Michail Sitkovsky, director of the New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute at North Eastern University, who led the work. The extra oxygen changed the tumour’s environment so that immune cells could get inside and do their jobs.
The study has exciting potential but obviously it must be tested in people first. If it works then this supplemental oxygen approach could be utilised to work in conjunction with other cancer therapies to aid in the battle against cancer.
References: http://www.usnews.com and http://blackburnnews.com