Skip to main content

Oxygen’s Role in Safe Surgery

Dec 13, 2012

Medical oxygen is essential to performing life-saving surgeries anywhere in the world. Unfortunately it is frequently in short-supply in many hospitals in low-income countries.

This is perhaps not surprising: hospitals in the US and other wealthy countries manufacture their own pure oxygen and pipe it into ORs through the wall, while low-resourced hospitals for the most part have to purchase tanks of this special gas at great expense and have them delivered.  Though that seems straightforward, delivery of these tanks often requires trucks to travel on bumpy dirt roads (that can sometimes be impassable after significant rain) making it logistically difficult to receive the tanks.

And hospitals need a lot of oxygen to perform surgeries (and in other departments) – the photo above represents just some of the many tanks waiting to be replaced at a hospital that requires 2-3 deliveries of oxygen tanks a week.

Understanding the oxygen supply chain challenges, Gradian recognized that we could use an oxygen concentrator instead of cylinders for the UAM.  Not only are concentrators more cost-effective as shown in this study below from Nigeria, but they are often more reliable (there’s always more air in the room – oxygen tanks are often empty). The UAM was designed to reduce a hospital’s dependence on costly oxygen cylinders by integrating in its base an oxygen concentrator that purifies room air up to 95% pure oxygen.  Of course, if power is lost the UAM will automatically begin to use an external source of oxygen – including tanks or room air – meaning that a tank of oxygen is only used as a last resort and can last much, much longer.

We are hopeful that this frees up even a little bit more of a hospital’s budget to spend on addressing the many challenges they face.


Below are some useful links/study’s comparing the costs and effectiveness of cylinders to oxygen concentrators:

Use of an oxygen concetrator in a Nigerian neonatal unit: economic implications and reliability” (PubMed abstract)

Meeting Oxygen Needs in Africa: an options analysis from the Gambia” (WHO)

Table comparing the characteristics of cylinders vs. oxygen concentrators (WHO)

Namibia: Mystery Oxygen Shortage At Gobabis State Hospital” (