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Medical gas valves are critical pieces of equipment at your medical facility. These components may be small, but they regulate the flow of vital oxygen and other gases to your patients, so they need to be kept in full working order. From time to time, they will need to be replaced.

But how often do these replacements need to take place? What can affect the efficiency of the valve, and what indicators may suggest a replacement is necessary? Read on to learn more about setting a replacement schedule for your medical gas valves.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is designed to provide a rough guide and includes a number of things to consider as you plan when to replace your medical gas tank valves. It is not designed to be a substitute for a professional inspection. If you are unsure about the efficacy or safety of any of your medical valves, remove them from service right way, and have them checked by the manufacturer.

Regular Replacement Schedules

Even if your medical gas valves seem to be working just fine, with no apparent problems, they will still need to be changed and replaced according to a regular schedule. While medical facilities and institutions are, of course, concerned with optimizing the returns they receive on their investment and extending the lifespan of their equipment, the care of patients and the health and safety of everyone on the site comes first.

With this in mind, medical facility managers need to remain aware of the Reasonable Usable Lifespan of the medical gas valves in their system. Generally, the Reasonable Usable Lifespan of medical gas equipment is five years — and your gas tank valves will need to be replaced after this five-year period has elapsed.

Other components of your system, such as the equipment that delivers oxygen directly to the patient, will need to be replaced more frequently. For example, the oxygen tubing will need replacing after three to six months of operation but may need to be changed sooner if there is any damage to the tubing.

Similarly, the cannula will need to be changed every two to four weeks. If the patient has been ill during this time, or if there is a chance of infection for another reason, the cannula may need to be replaced before the two weeks have elapsed.

Replacement Outside of the Regular Schedule

Maintaining a regular repair and replacement schedule for your medical gas valves is very important, but your personnel will still need to be aware of other signs that replacement may be required.

Dirt, damage, and other issues can reduce the lifespan of the equipment or may reduce its efficiency. This is why regular inspections are important, as the patient can be put at risk if there are any problems with the equipment. Any medical facility or institution that uses medical gas valves and other similar equipment will need to carry out tests on a regular basis and remain vigilant for anything that could affect the operation of the valve.

Valves may need replacing in the following instances;

After Failing a Visual Inspection

Medical oxygen valves will need to be regularly inspected by qualified personnel. Usually, this will be the medical professional tasked with operating the gas system, as they will usually have had appropriate inspection training alongside their operational training. The professional will check for blockages and other potential issues within the valve.

If there is dirt, grease, or another obstruction, the valve component will need to be removed and cleaned before it is passed fit for service again. If there is any damage or another defect, the gas tank valve will need to be replaced to ensure optimal safety and efficiency.

After Failing a Pressure Test

As medical oxygen equipment is designed to operate under pressure, it must be tested to ensure it can handle these operating conditions. This process will put the cylinder valve — i.e., the valve that regulates pressure from the gas source — and the pressure-reducing device’s inlet valve under strain. The inspector needs to check that they are working correctly.

After the equipment is connected, open up the pressure-reducing device’s inlet valve and the cylinder valve in turn and examine the pressure gauge for a response. If no response is visible on the indicator, you will need to get the equipment checked by the manufacturer, and the valves — or other components — may need to be changed.

After an Impact or Similar Incident

Medical oxygen and gas equipment — including gas tank valves — is designed to be highly robust. In other words, it is tough enough to stand up to regular usage and can even withstand heavier impacts without endangering the health and safety of professionals and patients. However, this does not mean that the equipment is designed to withstand heavier impacts and serious incidents and remain fully operational.

Therefore, it is always best to err on the side of caution. While replacing your medical valves can be expensive, this is a far preferable situation to putting the lives and health of your patients and your staff in danger. If medical equipment is dropped, subject to extreme temperatures, or is otherwise damaged, it needs to be sent to the manufacturer for testing. If in doubt, do not use the equipment and replace the valves with alternatives that are passed as fit for service.

Document Your Replacement Schedules Carefully

It’s true that your medical gas equipment, and the valve components included, are tough. However, you’re going to be using your gas systems for a long time — many, many years in the future — and so you’re going to replace them multiple times. This means documentation is required, providing an extensive resource that team members can refer to as they assess the operating history of the equipment. With this documentation, you will be able to ensure the ongoing efficacy of your systems and provide all important guarantees regarding health and safety.