Moisture matters. Just ask any runner who’s slogged through a steamy afternoon. The same can be said for medical professionals trying to analyze a person’s breath. Here’s what happens.

Humidity Can Impact Accuracy and Damage Equipment
During medical procedures, an anesthesiologist measures the concentration of carbon dioxide exhaled by a patient. They do this to keep track of the patient’s pulmonary health and determine appropriate course of action at the right time. How’s this accomplished? The patient’s breath travels through a sample line to a capnogram or in other words, an analyzer.

It’s not just about surgery. More and more medical testing and diagnosis is done using the patient’s breath. Testing a patient’s breath to monitor a variety of issues, including asthma, gastrointestinal issues and cancer, is often less invasive and less expensive than other types of tests.

So, where does water vapor come into play? Well, humans have a lot of moisture in their breath. Even just breathing onto a mirror shows how the water vapor condenses on the surface. If the water vapor is not removed from the patient’s breath sample, it could travel to the analyzer. This is where problems arise. Water vapor can lead to inaccuracies in results and damage medical equipment, often leading to dire consequences. Removing the humidity, or water vapor, before the analysis leads to more accurate results.

Low Humidity Presents Other Challenges
Breathing dry air is uncomfortable. That’s because the human lung usually has 100% relative humidity. Delivering dry therapeutic gases to patients can cause discomfort and dry out the mucosal membrane. Humidifying therapeutic gases is required is several cases and leads to increased patient comfort and healthier outcomes.

Many Methods to Control Moisture Aren’t Effective or Require Maintenance
To remove condensation, water traps are sometimes placed in the sample lines that run from the patient to the analyzer. This isn’t a fool-proof solution. If the condensation occurs after the gas passes through the water trap, this isn’t useful. More problematic is when a water trap is moved or disturbed, sending a slug of liquid into the equipment, possibly causing damage. Also, sometimes the water traps trigger low-level alarms that require a nurse’s attention to remove the water. Nurses may undergo alarm fatigue, a desensitization to alarm sounds due to sensory overload. Water build up in water traps is an additional alarm that can lead to alarm fatigue.

Some may use filters to try and manage the moisture. However, filters take time to replace—and if they aren’t replaced at regular intervals, you may get poor quality results.

So, Can Humidity Be Controlled?
The answer is YES! Perma Pure’s Nafion™ Polymer tubing can selectively transfer moisture across its membrane and can remove up to 90% moisture from a wet gas stream. Or, it can be used to add water vapor to a dry gas stream in patient therapies. And that means:

  • Accurate test results
  • Prevents equipment damage (and that leads to more cost savings)
  • Increased patient comfort
  • Better patient outcomes

Those benefits help everyone breathe easier and be healthier.