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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The effects of temperature on nitrous oxide and oxygen mixture homogeneity and stability

Patrick D Litwin

Author Affiliations

VitalAire Canada, Inc., 14572-121A Avenue, Edmonton AB, T5L 4L2, Canada

BMC Anesthesiology 2010, 10:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-10-19

Published: 15 October 2010

Abstract

Background

For many long standing practices, the rationale for them is often lost as time passes. This is the situation with respect to the storage and handling of equimolar 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen volume/volume (v/v) mixtures.

Methods

A review was undertaken of existing literature to examine the developmental history of nitrous oxide and oxygen mixtures for anesthesia and analgesia and to ascertain if sufficient bibliographic data was available to support the position that the contents of a cylinder of a 50%/50% volume/volume (v/v) mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is in a homogenous single gas phase in a filled cylinder under normal conditions of handling and storage and if justification could be found for the standard instructions given for handling before use.

Results

After ranking and removing duplicates, a total of fifteen articles were identified by the various search strategies and formed the basis of this literature review. Several studies were identified that confirmed that 50%/50% v/v mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is in a homogenous single gas phase in a filled cylinder under normal conditions of handling and storage. The effect of temperature on the change of phase of the nitrous oxide in this mixture was further examined by several authors. These studies demonstrated that although it is possible to cause condensation and phase separation by cooling the cylinder, by allowing the cylinder to rewarm to room temperature for at least 48 hours, preferably in a horizontal orientation, and inverting it three times before use, the cylinder consistently delivered the proper proportions of the component gases as a homogenous mixture.

Conclusions

The contents of a cylinder of a 50%/50% volume/volume (v/v) mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is in a homogenous single gas phase in a filled cylinder under normal conditions of handling and storage. The standard instructions given for handling before are justified based on previously conducted studies.