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Types of Medical Gases

Mar. 24, 2023
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Medical gases are part of any hospital landscape. They form an essential and inevitable tool and piece of equipment in emergency rooms, operating theatres, ICUs, wards, ambulances, etc. ....... In other words, their applications are diverse and suitable for any space.


Among the various medical gases required for healthcare, we can talk about medical air, oxygen, helium, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, nitrogen or nitrous oxide.


The fact is that, periodically, more and more demands are placed on their use. Perhaps the most important application is oxygen/medical air for oxygen therapy purposes. Here it is important to know how much gas the patient has inhaled.

Nitric Oxide, NO Specialty Gas

For respiratory purposes, gases can be supplied directly to the patient from cylinders or concentrators, whereas in hospital facilities, gases are usually piped from storage tanks, hot water bottles or cylinders to the air inlet at each location.


Special gases are key to many analytical devices for studying the chemical composition of blood samples or other biological waste. In addition, in oncology they can be used to look for markers indicating that a cancerous tumour is growing or under control. Special gases are also very useful for lasers in surgery or other treatments.


For sterilising equipment, the gases may be mixed with ethylene oxide or other toxic components. A very popular application in this respect is proton therapy for cancer treatment. On the other hand, in the case of prenatal respiratory failure, nitric oxide can be used as a diastolic agent to effectively dilate blood vessels, especially the pulmonary vessels.


Helium can be mixed to reduce the density of oxygen mixtures in medical applications.


Types of medical gases

Medical gases are the gases used in medical procedures. Some are used for treatment, some for anaesthesia and some to drive medical devices and tools. There are seven commonly used gases: oxygen, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, argon, helium, carbon dioxide and compressed air.


Medical gas systems also include vacuum suction systems and anaesthetic gas removal systems.


Properties and uses of medical gases

(1) Oxygen

Oxygen is the most essential gas for life and is used in medicine to replenish oxygen in patients suffering from hypoxia. Direct inhalation of high purity oxygen is harmful to the human body. The concentration of oxygen for long-term use does not normally exceed 30-40%. General patients receive oxygen through oxygen flow meters; critically ill patients breathe oxygen through ventilators.


Oxygen is also used in high-pressure tanks for diving, gas poisoning and drug nebulisation.


(2) Nitrous Oxide

Inhalation of small amounts of nitrous oxide has an anaesthetic and analgesic effect, but large amounts can cause asphyxiation. In medicine, a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is used as an anaesthetic, and the anaesthetic is inhaled into the patient by means of an airtight or ventilated machine.


(3) Carbon dioxide

In medicine, carbon dioxide is used to inflate the abdominal cavity and colon for laparoscopy and colonoscopy. It is also used for laboratory cultures of bacteria (anaerobic bacteria).


Carbon dioxide can be made into dry ice by pressurisation (5.2 atmospheres) and cooling (below -56.6°C). Medical dry ice is used for cryotherapy of cataracts and vascular diseases.


(4) Argon and helium

They are colourless, odourless and non-toxic inert gases. They are used medically for surgical instruments such as argon knives and air knives.


(5) Compressed air

Compressed air is used to power oral surgery instruments, orthopaedic instruments and ventilators.


(6) Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a colourless, odourless, non-toxic and non-flammable gas. It is not reactive at room temperature and does not react chemically with common metals. It is used in medicine to power medical equipment and tools. Liquid nitrogen is commonly used in surgery, dentistry, gynaecology and ophthalmology for cryosurgery.



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