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Mesothelioma home medical equipment can make mesothelioma patients more comfortable and mobile and can be as simple as an oxygen tank or as large as a hospital bed. Mesothelioma home medical equipment can be purchased from various suppliers and may be covered by private health insurance and Medicare.
What Is Home Medical Equipment?
Home medical equipment is any medical device used in the home for patient care. A nurse or other health care worker may use the equipment with the patient, or family members may receive training to provide care.
Medical equipment helps monitor the patient, administer medications, make breathing easier, or provide nutrition or oxygen.
Home, or durable, medical equipment is often used by families when a patient transitions from the hospital but still needs some level of medical care. As patients transition from the hospital to home, there may need to be some extra planning to ensure the home is comfortable and safe.
Home equipment is often necessary to provide some level of care. Although the equipment may be expensive, it costs less costly than an extended hospital stay.
When Does a Mesothelioma Patient Need Home Medical Equipment?
When a patient needs home medical care will depend on several factors. Working with a medical team of doctors, nurses, and specialists can help guide important decisions, like using home medical equipment.
In general, a patient may need this equipment if they are stable enough to leave the hospital but still requires some medical care.
The required medical care could be assisted breathing or medication administration. Home medical equipment can also be used to manage symptoms and side effects.
In the later stages of mesothelioma, medication may not be sufficient to manage pain; however, a piece of equipment may make a difference in comfort level.
Respiratory Equipment for Pleural Mesothelioma
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma. This form involves the tissue lining the lungs and chest cavity. Because it affects the lungs, respiratory problems are common, causing both pain and difficulty breathing. Simple home medical equipment can relieve respiratory symptoms and improve quality of life:
- A portable oxygen tank is a small but important piece of equipment for many mesothelioma patients. An oxygen tank can be wheeled around so a patient who struggles to breathe can walk around and still receive enough oxygen.
- A spirometer is another valuable piece of equipment that measures how much air you inhale or exhale. This encourages patients to take deep breaths to avoid complications such as pneumonia. This small plastic device tracks measurements to monitor a patient’s symptoms and progress.
Medical Equipment for Pleural Effusion
People with pleural mesothelioma often experience pleural effusion, a build-up of fluid between the layers of tissue in the chest. Pleural effusion is typically painful and makes breathing difficult.
Draining this fluid provides relief. Newer medical devices allow patients to do this at home rather than going to the hospital. The devices must be installed surgically but remain in place for home use:
- Indwelling catheters into the chest cavity are one home device used to drain excess pleural fluid.
- One method uses a shunt, where one end is inserted in the chest’s pleural cavity and the other in the peritoneal cavity of the abdomen. This is called a pleuroperitoneal shunt.
- The idea is that it shunts fluid from the lungs to the peritoneal cavity, where the body can absorb and excrete it.
- For patients with peritoneal mesothelioma, fluid buildup in the abdomen can also be uncomfortable and can be drained with a shunt that routes the fluid into a vein.
Another option is to have an indwelling catheter placed that the patient or family can drain at home. A small plastic tube is inserted into the pleural cavity. This one-way valve can be attached to a vacuum container to remove the fluid.
Other Home Medical Equipment
In addition to equipment that relieves symptoms specific to mesothelioma and its treatments, other devices are more general. For example, a hospital bed can make resting easier and might help make breathing more comfortable. A hospital bed can also make getting in and out of bed easier.
Mobility devices like walkers and wheelchairs give patients the ability to continue moving as long as possible. In the bathroom, assistive devices like shower seats and toilet chairs also allow patients to maintain some independence. Lifts can also be installed to help patients get to an upper floor.
Paying for Home Medical Equipment
Home medical equipment is expensive, but many health insurance plans, including Medicare, provide coverage. Medicare part B covers durable medical equipment. For equipment to be covered, it must be reusable, have a medical purpose, be prescribed by a doctor, and not be used by anyone who is not sick.
Most private insurance plans also cover home medical equipment; although, it may require a co-pay. In addition, Medicaid may cover the cost of equipment for those who qualify.
Veterans may seek assistance through the Veterans Administration.
Home medical equipment can provide an alternative to assisted living or a nursing home for some mesothelioma patients. For some, medical equipment can make the difference between being in pain and being comfortable. It may also make the difference between being bedridden and being able to leave the house.
This equipment is important for many people, and everyone coping with an illness like mesothelioma should be aware of the options it provides.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.