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Medical Gas – a Short Primer

Medical gas is a critical component of the everyday operation of hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world. Understanding the most common types of gases, their uses, and how to maintain your medical gas systems is important for any medical facility.

Medical Air

Medical air is the clean, dry, and compressed air used in hospitals and healthcare facilities to distribute medical gas.  Medical Air is used to assist in patient respiration and to help keep the patient comfortable throughout surgery and treatment. The medical Air system can only be used for patient respiration and for the calibration of medical devices for respiration applications.


Oxygen is required in every healthcare setting for its use in inhalation therapy, life support, and resuscitation. Oxygen is also used in modern anaesthetic techniques for treating conditions such as COPD, cyanosis, shock, severe hemorrhage, carbon monoxide poisoning, major trauma, and cardiac/respiratory arrest.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide gas is used to insufflate medical gases to widen and stabilize body cavities for minimally-invasive surgeries such as cryotherapy, endoscopy, arthroscopy, and laparoscopy. Carbon dioxide gas is also used in respiratory stimulation during and after anesthesia.

Carbon dioxide-oxygen mixtures are frequently used in the assessment of chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, and COPD, as well as in radiation therapy for cancer treatment. As respiratory diseases and cancer rise, the demand for medical air is expected to increase over time.


Nitrogen is often stored as a liquid at several hundred degrees below zero, so it is useful in cryosurgery (the removal of certain types of cancer and skin lesions), as well as for storing tissues, cells, and blood in cryogenic temperatures. It also composes part of the gas mixture for lung function tests. Nitrogen gas can also power medical tools in place of instrument air.

Nitrous Oxide

Commonly referred to as “laughing gas”, nitrous oxide is commonly used in surgical procedures both as an anesthetic and analgesic, particularly in dental applications. While the exact mechanism of nitrous oxide’s effects is unknown, it has been used dependably and extensively since its initial introduction in 1772.

Regular inspection of medical gas systems is essential, both for the health of patients and the success of a healthcare facility. It is crucial that any facility’s technicians are up to date with the proper repair, maintenance, and operational information in order to maintain the safety and effectiveness of medical gas systems.
National Inspection Testing Certification offers a variety of personnel certifications in Medical Gas, including Installation, Inspection, Maintenance, and Instruction. Whether you are a training director, association representative, employer representative, or an individual applicant, NITC can help you find the right certification and testing program for your trade. Contact us today at 877.457.6482 or visit us online to find out more.