BOC Healthcare has installed a pipeline system to deliver Heliox gas to patients’ bedsides at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, UK.

Heliox is a ready to-use gas mixture from BOC, a member of the Linde Group, consisting of 79% helium and 21% oxygen.

It assists the flow of oxygen into, and carbon dioxide out of, the lungs and so makes breathing less effort for patients with severe airway obstruction caused by conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma and bronchiolitis.

The new system is the first of its kind in the UK. For the hospital, having the gas supplied from a piped system means that the gas supply is always available and nurses do not need to change cylinders in the wards.

The system has initially been installed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at St Peter’s but an expansion of the scheme to other areas of the hospital is now under consideration.

Traditionally, Heliox has been supplied to the hospital in 10 litre cylinders pressurised to 200 bar. These would be manually delivered to five beds in the Intensive Care Unit and connected to ventilators for patients experiencing breathing difficulties, they would then need to be changed over by hand as each became depleted.

The amount of time handling and changing over cylinders was limiting the use of Heliox treatment, as the Head of the Unit, Dr Ian White explains, “The staff time required to transport and change the cylinders at the bedside was a considerable drain on resources. Having Heliox piped to the bedside has
simplified the logistics and means we can treat more patients on a weekly basis with greater security and better staff safety.”

With the new BOC system, the gas is piped to the ICU from a secure store in another part of the site, which frees up more space in the Unit.

Instead of individual cylinders, the Heliox is provided to the hospital by manifolds, each of which is equivalent to a bank of 50 standard cylinders. This greatly increases the volume of gas available for use at any one time in the ICU, and instead of nurses or other ward staff having to replace empty cylinders, trained hospital staff can manage the changeover at the remote location.

For Lyndon Saul, BOC Healthcare’s Engineering Services Manager, the piped supply at St Peter’s represents a joint solution to a challenge, he said, “This is the first time we have provided Heliox in this way. The hospital identified a limitation to the delivery of certain treatments within the ICU and, together, BOC and St Peter’s were able to develop a solution.”

He added, “We believe that this piped system may have wider application across the UK hospital sector.”