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What Is an Oxygen Flow Meter?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2014
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An oxygen flow meter is a device that measures the flow of oxygen from an oxygen-dispensing unit to the user of the oxygen. It can either be attached to a part of an oxygen tank, or it can be an standalone device that measures the flow from a gas tank or gas concentrator. This part is essential on any oxygen-dispensing device because it gives a quantitative measurement of the flow of gas moving to the user or patient through the system. Usually, it comes standard on the flow valve for the oxygen-dispensing device. Advanced oxygen flow metering systems can also indicate whether a line has blockage or if a tank of oxygen is unfit for use.

Meters measuring oxygen flow appear most often on oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators, machines that create concentrated oxygen. Most systems incorporate the oxygen flow meter as part of an oxygen regulator valve, but a flow valve can also be a separate device. An oxygen regulator valve, sometimes called a flow regulator, controls the flow of oxygen going to the user. The regulator valve usually has gauges like an oxygen flow and a pressure meter.

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In the medical field, a nurse can use an oxygen flow meter to verify that the patient is getting the right amount of oxygen. A secondary meter can also act as a fail safe for an oxygen dispensing system. Usually, hand-held meters are used for spot checks to ensure that oxygen regulator flow meters are functioning properly. Discrepancies in the oxygen flow meter reading scan indicate problems with the regulator or leaks within the oxygen system. Since a malfunctioning regulator valve can give a patient or dependent user an incorrect amount of oxygen, monitoring the oxygen flow meter readouts is an important part of using oxygen.

Oxygen flow meters usually measure gas flow in liters per minute (Lpm). Most oxygen flow meters measure from 0 to 15 Lpm if they are measuring flow from a scuba tank or oxygen concentrator. These tools are designed to provide oxygen to a patient who is breathing mainly on his own.

Equipment for assisting a patient who cannot breathe on his own offers higher levels of oxygen flow. One tool for breathing assistance called a resuscitation valve, or demand valve, has a higher capacity for oxygen delivery flow than standard oxygen tanks or concentrator regulator valves. Used to help emergency medical workers employing cardiopulmonary resuscitation to revive patients who are not breathing, these valves deal out a more powerful flow of oxygen than what a person breathing on his own would typically need from an oxygen source.

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