Troubleshooting Oxygen Delivery Problems

April 6, 2016 | Evaluations & Guidance


Some patients require delivery of a precise concentration of oxygen. For such patients, an oxygen-air proportioner, also known as a blender, is used.

Oxygen and air are delivered to the blender through separate pipelines in the hospital's medical gas system. The blender mixes them as needed to achieve oxygen concentrations between 21% (air) and 100%. From the blender, the gas mixture is then delivered to the patient—for example, through a ventilator and tracheal tube or via a nasal cannula (or mask).

But things don't always go as planned: The oxygen concentration being delivered to a neonate through a ventilator drops spontaneously for no apparent reason. Or the oxygen concentration that was set on the blender doesn't match the concentration delivered to the patient. Hospital staff trying to identify the source of such problems face a challenging task, since the cause might be the blender itself, a misconnection somewhere along the gas delivery path, or even an issue with the medical gas system.

The consequences of incorrect oxygen delivery can be dire. For example, a patient with hypoxemia (low blood oxygen level) may not tolerate underdelivery of oxygen. And patients who are sensitive to high levels of oxygen (e.g., premature neonates, patients with severe chronic obstructive...

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