Experts say oxygen concentrators can be used only in moderate COVID-19 cases, not by all

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New Delhi, May 1 (PTI) Health experts on Saturday said oxygen concentrators can be used only in moderate cases of COVID-19 when a patient experiences a drop in oxygen level and not by everyone who finds it below acceptable limits.

According to the health ministry, the experts also made it clear that using oxygen concentrators without medical guidance can be very harmful.

Given their usefulness during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 lakh oxygen concentrators were being procured using PM CARES fund, the ministry said in a statement.

Head of the Anaesthesia Department in B J Medical College, Pune, Sanyogita Naik said, 'Oxygen concentrators can be used only in moderate cases of COVID-19 when a patient experiences a drop in oxygen level and where the requirement is a maximum of 5 litres per minute.' The professor added that the machines are also very useful for those experiencing post-COVID complications which necessitate oxygen therapy.

Asked if the oxygen concentrators can be used without medical guidance, Dr Chaitanya H. Balakrishnan, COVID Coordinator at St. John's Medical College Hospital in Bengaluru said, 'The answer is a strict no.' Addressing a webinar organized by the Press Information Bureau on April 30, Dr Balakrishnan made it clear that using oxygen concentrators without medical guidance can be very harmful.

'Patients with moderate pneumonia induced by COVID-19 with oxygen saturation less than 94 can benefit from supplemental oxygen given through oxygen concentrator, but only till they get hospital admission.' 'So, till you get a bed, oxygen concentrators can be beneficial, but definitely not without the guidance of chest physician or internal medicine specialist. It also depends on patients' pre-existing lung conditions,' Dr Balakrishnan said.

Prof. Sanyogita too said that both the purchase and use of oxygen concentrators have to be done only based on a prescription by a doctor.

The health ministry said India has seen a big spurt in the manufacture and sale of oxygen concentrators in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic which has stretched the country's health infrastructure to its limits leading to a shortage in medical oxygen and hospital beds. PTI PLB NSD