Setting: A resource-limited paediatric hospital in Uganda.
Objective: Pneumonia is a leading cause of child mortality worldwide. Access to life-saving oxygen therapy is limited in many areas. We designed and implemented a solar-powered oxygen delivery system for the treatment of paediatric pneumonia.
Design: Proof-of-concept pilot study. A solar-powered oxygen delivery system was designed and piloted in a cohort of children with hypoxaemic illness.
Results: The system consisted of 25 × 80 W photovoltaic solar panels (daily output 7.5 kWh [range 3.8-9.7kWh]), 8 × 220 Ah batteries and a 300 W oxygen concentrator (output up to 5 l/min oxygen at 88% [±2%] purity). A series of 28 patients with hypoxaemia were treated with solar-powered oxygen. Immediate improvement in peripheral blood oxygen saturation was documented (median change +12% [range 5-15%], P < 0.0001). Tachypnoea, tachycardia and composite illness severity score improved over the first 24 h of hospitalisation (P < 0.01 for all comparisons). The case fatality rate was 6/28 (21%). The median recovery times to sit, eat, wean oxygen and hospital discharge were respectively 7.5 h, 9.8 h, 44 h and 4 days.
Conclusion: Solar energy can be used to concentrate oxygen from ambient air and oxygenate children with respiratory distress and hypoxaemia in a resource-limited setting.