What is medical oxygen?

With COVID-19 cases surging in several parts of the country, there have been reports of some States facing acute shortage of medical oxygen. But what is medical oxygen?

Used in healthcare

You may think there is enough oxygen in the air around us. But the natural air around us has only 21% of oxygen and the rest is a mixture of other gases such as nitrogen (78%), argon and carbon dioxide. Medical oxygen is pure oxygen used for treatment of patients in hospitals. The oxygen from the ambient air is separated using a special technique, inspected and packaged into cylinders for use in hospitals. There are different grades of oxygen such as industrial oxygen, aviator breathing oxygen, and medical oxygen.

Life-saving gas

The oxygen we breathe gets into our bloodstream, providing our body with energy. Every cell in our body needs oxygen for proper functioning if there is not enough oxygen in our bloodstream to supply our tissues and cells, then we need supplemental oxygen to keep our organs healthy. Medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Illnesses such as this cause the oxygen level in the body to dip, which affects the functioning of the cells, if left untreated. If the cells don’t function properly, it affects the organs and the functioning of all systems in the body, causing even death in extreme cases. So giving medical oxygen becomes essential as it restores the oxygen level in the cells and tissues, saving life. COVID-19 is said to primarily affect the lungs in patients. As it causes oxygen deficiency in the body because of its impact on the lungs, patients are put on oxygen therapy to maintain the function of the vital organs. Again, too much oxygen can be dangerous. That’s why doctors and caregivers keep a close eye on patients to ensure that they get only the required amount of medical oxygen, and not more. Did you know a pulse oximeter, a small, clip-like device into which a finger is inserted, tracks blood oxygen levels, and can diagnose oxygen deficiency?

States with a high demand

Amid the spike in cases, the Centre has decided to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen plants at 100 new hospitals in far-flung areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for synergy between various ministers and State governments to ensure smooth supply of medical oxygen and for ramping up its production.

According to the Union health ministry, the Centre-appointed Empowered Group (EG2), constituted last year to ensure availability of essential medical equipment during the pandemic, is monitoring the situation of demand and supply of medical oxygen. The country has the capacity to produce over 7,000 metric tonnes of oxygen per day. It is said that the maximum consumption of medical oxygen is by States with high COVID-19 cases such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Rajasthan.

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What is a corona virus, its symptoms, its causes, diagnosis, prevention & treatment?

A corona virus is a virus that is found in animals. Sometimes these viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans, although it is rare. Officials do not know what animal caused the Wuhan corona virus, although the market it is linked to also sold wild animals, like snakes and crocodiles.

In addition to the Wuhan corona virus, other human corona viruses have included:

  • The MERS virus, or Middle East respiratory syndrome.

  • The SARS virus, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which first occurred in the Guangdong province in southern China.

It is believed that both MERS and SARS are more serious than the Wuhan corona virus.


Unlike MERS and SARS, the Wuhan corona virus is usually fairly mild. It can take longer for symptoms to develop. Symptoms may include:

  • A mild cough.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • A runny nose.

  • A sore throat.

  • A headache.

  • A fever.

So far, only 15 to 20% of cases have become severe. Those with weakened immune systems may develop more serious symptoms, like pneumonia or bronchitis. So far, only people 40 years old and older have developed the Wuhan corona virus infection.


Humans first get a corona virus from contact with animals. Then, it can spread from human to human. Health officials do not know what animal caused the Wuhan corona virus.

The Wuhan corona virus can be spread when one human comes into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as droplets in a cough. It might also be caused by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your hand to your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Officials do not know who transmits the Wuhan corona virus most or where most infections occur.

How is a corona virus diagnosed?

If you believe you may have a corona virus, you should see your doctor immediately. Before just showing up to your doctor’s office, alert your doctor that you’re coming and why. This will allow the office to prepare and perhaps isolate patients to prevent the spread of infection. To diagnose you, your doctor will run tests to rule out other common infections.

Can a corona virus be prevented or avoided?

There are currently no vaccines for corona virus. Try to avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

If you are travelling to an area where the Wuhan corona virus is present, speak with your doctor first.

Corona virus treatment

  • Symptoms of a corona virus usually go away on their own. If symptoms feel worse than a common cold, see your doctor. He or she may prescribe pain or fever medication.

  • As with a cold, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.

  • Living with a corona virus

  • If you have the Wuhan corona virus, your doctor will advise you to stay home, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. Symptoms will usually go away on their own.

  • When possible, avoid contact with others when you can to avoid getting them sick.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

China’s national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.

How many people have been affected?

As of 25 February, the outbreak has affected 80,000 people globally. In mainland China there have been 2,663 deaths among 77,658 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei. More than 12,000 people affected in China have already recovered.

The corona virus has spread to at least other 30 other countries. The most badly affected include Japan, with 850 cases, including 691 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, and four deaths. Italy has recorded 229 cases and seven deaths, while South Korea has recorded 893 cases and eight deaths. There have also been deaths in Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Iran and the Philippines.


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How surgeons smooth away the wrinkles?

As the skin ages, some of the subcutaneous or underlying fat which supports and pads it dissolves away. And one of the skin-s main constituents, called collagen, loses its ability to retain moisture, making the skin less elastic and drier. The result is sagging skin and wrinkles.

Most people accept wrinkles as part of growing older. For others, particularly those in the public eye like entertainers and politicians, ageing skin can be a problem. The only answer is cosmetic surgery.

There is more to cosmetic surgery than a face-lift — which, as its names suggests, means pulling the skin up over the face. Its cosmetic effects are, for the most part, restricted mostly to the chin and neck. Wrinkles around the eyes the side of the, nose, and across the forehead have to be dealt with in separate operations, such as an eyebrow or forehead lift, or a nasal fold removal. In blepharoplasty, excess loose skin is removed from the upper and lower eyelids.

Minor nips and tucks arc clone under local anaesthetic, bat a face-lift is a major

operation, and is usually done under general anaesthetic. The surgeon first makes an incision into the skin around each ear. He starts the cut well within the hairline above the ear, and continues it around the bottom of the ear and then up behind it. The cut is then taken horizontally towards the back of the head. Most of the cut is within the area covered by hair, so that the scars will be hidden.

Once the cuts are made, the surgeon carefully separates the skin below the line of the cut from the underlying fatty layer. He then pulls the loose skin towards the back of the head. The thin layer of muscle tissue in the neck is lifted and tightened. The excess skin is cut off and the incision sewn up.

 It often takes two to three weeks to recover from the slight inflammation of the face caused by the operation. The scars, which can be camouflaged by make-up a week after the operation, fade in time.

No face-lift retards ageing permanently. The ageing process continues from the time of the operation at the normal rate. More face-lifts can be performed on the same person but there is always a limit, because each time the surgeon removes more skin. When the skin is stretched to its tightest limit without hindering normal functions, such as smiling, there is no excess available and further operations become impossible. Not all operations are a success and some people have been left with badly scarred faces.


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What happens in a heart transplant?

When a heart becomes available, a suitable recipient is quickly located and told to get to the hospital immediately. At the same time, a combination of police, ambulance and helicopters race the donated organ to the hospital. A heart may travel hundreds of kilometres from donor to recipient, sometimes across international boundaries. But to save time, the European computerized system, Euro transplant, tries to locate recipients who live as close to the donor as possible.

To prepare a patient for a heart transplant, the surgeon cuts into the chest and ties off the blood vessels leading to and from the recipient's heart. The recipient's blood supply is then redirected through the heart-lung machine, which replaces the function of the patient's own heart and lungs. The faulty heart is taken out, and the new organ is placed in the space. The new heart is then connected to the major veins and arteries before the recipient's blood is diverted through the new organ. The surgeon then sews up the chest and the operation is complete.


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How a pacemaker helps a heart patient to lead a normal life?

The human heart beats 3000 million times in an average lifetime, pumping the equivalent of 48 million gallons (218 million litres) of blood around the body.

The regular rhythm — on average, 72 beats each minute — is controlled by the sino-atrial node, a tiny rounded organ located in the top left corner inside the heart. This is the heart's natural pacemaker, which sends electrical impulses to the tissues. The heart contracts and heart's expands in response to these impulses, producing the heartbeat.

Occasionally, the heart's electrical con-ducting system can be disturbed by illness, such as angina or a heart attack. Sometimes it just fails completely. If this happens, the heart can be stimulated electrically to continue beating regularly.

If the heart stops it can sometimes be restarted with an electrical shock from a machine called a defibrillator. If the normal beat does not resume immediately, some-times a temporary pacemaker can be fitted outside the body — it is usually strapped to the waist. For those suffering from other irregularities of the heart beat a pacemaker is surgically placed inside the body, implanted in the chest.

 All pacemakers, inside and outside the body, work in the same way. An electrode on wire, called the end of a pacing lead, is attached to the wall of the heart's right ventricle (chamber), either directly through the chest, or threaded through a vein. The electrode is powered by the pacing box, a miniature generator operated by lithium batteries. Modern pacemaker batteries last at least five years, and some last up to 12 years.

 Powered by the pacing box, the electrode produces electrical impulses which stimulate the sino-atrial node and make the heart beat. The pacing box is set to maintain the intervals of the impulses at a given rate, usually one beat per second, which is a little slower than the average heart rate. However, the box functions only when the heart is not producing its own electrical impulses at the correct intervals. It is sensitive enough to detect these delays and by filling in the gaps, maintains a normal rhythm. Some models include a radio transmitter and receiver, which means that a doctor can adjust the rate of the pacemaker from outside the patient's body.

The first successful pacemakers were used by Dr Walter Lillehei, a cardiac specialist at the University of Minnesota, USA, in the late 1950s. They consisted of an electrode on a wire fed to the heart through the chest and attached to a battery pack strapped around the waist. The pack was about the size of a cigarette packet. Although the system was convenient because no surgery was needed to replace the batteries, the opening in the chest for the wire repeatedly became infected. External pacemakers are now used for temporary heart problems only, or until an internal pacemaker can be fitted.

The pacing box of the most commonly used internal pacemaker is about the size of a matchbox and weighs no more than 25g. It is usually made of lightweight titanium.

The box is implanted in the body, usually just inside the skin of the chest wall. It must be in the best position for threading the tube through the large vein to the heart and attaching the electrode, which is the size of a match head, to the heart wall. The body does not reject it because it is not living material.

The implanting operation is done while the patient is under general anaesthetic, but surgery to replace the batteries can usually be done with only a local anaesthetic.

 A person wearing a pacemaker needs to be examined by a doctor frequently to make sure that it is functioning properly. Also, some wearers have to take care that their pacemakers are not affected by certain electrical circuits, such as magnetic detectors in airports or libraries.

New electronic technology may produce even smaller pacemakers which can be attached to the heart wall, eliminating, wires and large battery packs, although!they are still powered by batteries.

 Another development is the rate-responsive pacemaker, which is sensitive to the patient's activity. Instead of providing at impulse once a second, it will increase the impulses when he is active and slow them down when he is resting — like the heart, natural pacemaker.

Since the First successful pacemaker developed, more than 5 million people with serious heart disease have been helped to live more comfortable and active lives.


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