Hyderabad: The second wave of COVID-19 has turned into a nightmare for India. As patients and their relatives grapple to find hospital beds and necessary drugs social media has become abuzz with lists of places that supply oxygen cylinders or people willing to donate plasma.

With thousands gasping for air, the Defence Research and Development Organization's (DRDO) new supplemental oxygen delivery system could prove to be a boon during the pandemic.

Developed by DRDO's Defence Bio-Engineering and Electro Medical Laboratory (DEBEL), Bengaluru, the system delivers supplemental oxygen based on the SpO2 levels and prevents the person from sinking into a state of Hypoxia, which is fatal in most cases, if it sets in.

Hypoxia is a state in which the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues is inadequate to fulfill all the energy requirements of the body. This is exactly the situation that gets replicated in a COVID-19 patient due to the virus infection and has been a leading factor in the current crisis.

Affordable, easy-to-use oxygen delivery system

This automated and easy-to-use oxygen delivery system could prove useful in these critical times when medical resources are stretched to their limits. Its proliferation would mitigate the crisis in the management of such huge number of COVID-19 patients in many ways all across the country.

The electronic hardware of the system is designed for functioning at extreme altitudes featuring low barometric pressures, low temperatures, and humidity. The software safety checks incorporated into the system are critical in ensuring the functional reliability of the system in field conditions.

The system reads SpO2 levels of the subject from a wrist-worn pulse oximeter module through wireless interface and controls a proportional solenoid valve to regulate the oxygen supply to the subject. The oxygen is delivered from a lightweight portable oxygen cylinder through nasal nares. The system is available in various sizes from one litre and one kg weight with 150 litres of oxygen supply to 10 litres and 10 kg weight with 1,500 litres of oxygen supply which can sustain for 750 minutes with a continuous flow of two liters per min (lpm).

Since the system is indigenously developed for operation in field conditions, it is unique with its dual qualities of being robust and cheap and is already in bulk production with the industry.

Boon for COVID-19 patients

The system is a boon in the current pandemic as it can be used in the household for moderate COVID patients for Oxygen flow therapy with flow controlled at 2/5/7/10 lpm flow. The automatic usage has a huge advantage in the household as the oximeter would give an alarm for lower SpO2 value. It will automatically increase/decrease the O2 flow based on SpO2 setting which can be auto-adjusted at 2, 5, 7, 10 lpm flow rate. The optimal O2 flow rate conserves the O2 resources/O2 management and greatly increases endurance.

With its availability and simple-to-use facility, the system shall greatly reduce the workload and exposure time of doctors and paramedics to monitor the SpO2 levels of the patient. The automated Calibrated Variable Flow Control for Low O2 levels (User pre-set, <90%, <80%) through a calibrated Flow Control Valve (PFCV) will facilitate in economizing the oxygen supply (1-10 lpm with ±0.5 lpm).

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