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Free Content Solar-powered oxygen delivery: proof of concept

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SETTING: A resource-limited paediatric hospital in Uganda.

OBJECTIVE: Pneumonia is a leading cause of child mortality worldwide. Access to life-saving oxygen therapy is limited in many areas. We designed and implemented a solar-powered oxygen delivery system for the treatment of paediatric pneumonia.

DESIGN: Proof-of-concept pilot study. A solar-powered oxygen delivery system was designed and piloted in a cohort of children with hypoxaemic illness.

RESULTS: The system consisted of 25 × 80 W photovoltaic solar panels (daily output 7.5 kWh [range 3.8–9.7kWh]), 8 × 220 Ah batteries and a 300 W oxygen concentrator (output up to 5 l/min oxygen at 88% [±2%] purity). A series of 28 patients with hypoxaemia were treated with solar-powered oxygen. Immediate improvement in peripheral blood oxygen saturation was documented (median change +12% [range 5–15%], P < 0.0001). Tachypnoea, tachycardia and composite illness severity score improved over the first 24 h of hospitalisation (P < 0.01 for all comparisons). The case fatality rate was 6/28 (21%). The median recovery times to sit, eat, wean oxygen and hospital discharge were respectively 7.5 h, 9.8 h, 44 h and 4 days.

CONCLUSION: Solar energy can be used to concentrate oxygen from ambient air and oxygenate children with respiratory distress and hypoxaemia in a resource-limited setting.
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Keywords: child; hypoxaemia; oxygen; pneumonia; solar energy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Paediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 2: Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 3: Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Mulago Hospital and Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda 4: Department of Paediatrics, Jinja Regional Referral Hospital, Jinja, Uganda 5: Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Mulago Hospital and Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Sandra A Rotman Laboratories, McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, Toronto, Canada; McLaughlin Centre for Molecular Medicine, Toronto, Tropical Disease Unit, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 6: Department of Paediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada; Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Publication date: May 1, 2016

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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