Medical Oxygen Concentrator

A medical oxygen concentrator stationary or portable, all oxygen concentrators typically function similarly. The system purifies and concentrates the surrounding air to supply patients with an endless supply of oxygen, so long as the oxygen concentrator is connected to power.

Considering the clear advantages over alternative delivery methods, the remainder of this guide will focus on oxygen concentrators, with an in-depth look at portable oxygen concentrators, specifically.

DID YOU KNOW? Oxygen concentrators never require tank refills or replacements.

Medical Oxygen Concentrator
Medical Oxygen Concentrator

Oxygen therapy at home

Oxygen therapy doesn’t have to mean giving up favorite activities. With 1 in 7 Americans requiring it at some point in their lifetime, oxygen concentrator technology is continuing to advance, making units lighter, quieter, and more comfortable than ever.

How It Works Oxygen therapy at home

Unlike traditional oxygen tanks, concentrator systems do not need to store oxygen, but instead, draw air from the patient’s surroundings to provide supplemental oxygen.

To understand how this works, it helps to visualize an air conditioner but instead of cooling the air, oxygen concentrators compress and purify the air and remove any elements that may complicate breathing. Regardless of size, oxygen concentrators follow these steps to deliver oxygen to patients.

  • The portable oxygen concentrator:
    1. Pulls in air
    2. Compresses the air, while a cooling mechanism reduces overheating
    3. Removes nitrogen and other impurities via filter and sieve beds
    4. Adapts delivery settings with an electronic interface
    5. Delivers purified, medical-grade oxygen to the patient via a tube device placed in the nostrils (nasal cannula)
Medical Oxygen Concentrator
Medical Oxygen Concentrator

Oxygen machine for home use

Understanding Oxygen Concentrators

DID YOU KNOW? Roughly 1 in 7 Americans will require oxygen therapy at some point in their lives.

While the ability to concentrate oxygen continuously from the surrounding air has been around for decades, only in recent years has technology advanced to create lightweight portable oxygen concentrators (POCs).

What is the difference between an oxygen concentrator and an oxygen generator?

Key Differences Between Stationary and Portable Concentrators

Stationary oxygen concentrator

Before the invention of small, battery-powered concentrators, all oxygen concentrators were stationary home units. Ranging in weight from 30-50 pounds, stationary concentrators are still utilized today for their higher oxygen capacities and nocturnal usage. In fact, many patients typically use both stationary and portable units to fulfill their oxygen needs and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.

Portable oxigen concentrator

Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are designed to travel with patients because they run for a limited time on battery power before requiring a recharge. Portable concentrators are also able to run and recharge on AC (wall outlet) or DC (automobile auxiliary outlet) power. (It’s important to note the battery life of POCs can fluctuate across brands, batteries, and settings.)

Most POCs provide pulse dose–short spurts of oxygen when the patient inhales—but some provide both pulse and automatic delivery, also known as continuous flow (more details on next page.)

Pulse dose oxygen system vs. Continuous flow oxygen system

When first considering supplemental oxygen, one of the first questions you’ll need to answer is: What type of device best fits my needs? The first determining factor is whether you’ll require a pulse or a continuous flowing oxygen unit.

What is Pulse Dose?

Think of pulse dose oxygen therapy as “on-demand oxygen” based on your breathing rate.

When you inhale, a short spurt of oxygen, called a bolus, is delivered via a tube device placed in your nostrils, called a cannula. The bolus is released in the first part of your breath—when it’s needed the most.

To understand better, it helps to envision the pulse dose as taking a drink through a straw. The amount of fluid and intensity of the “sip” is based entirely on how much you desire. This means that instead of oxygen flowing continuously to your nostrils, you’re able to directly control the flow of oxygen.

Considering the reduced size and weight when compared with traditional continuous oxygen concentrators, pulse dose units are ideal if you’re looking to maintain an active lifestyle.

What is Continuous Flow?

Continuous flow delivery, as it sounds, provides uninterrupted oxygen at a steady, specific rate regardless of your breathing. Continuous flow is the most common type of oxygen delivery and most doctors recommend this method if you require oxygen at night.

If pulse dose is akin to sipping through a straw, continuous flow can be understood better if you think about drinking from a water fountain. Water streams at a steady pace whether you’re taking a drink or not. The same applies to continuous flow units, there will naturally be excess oxygen wasted due to the constant state of delivery.

All home (stationary) concentrators operate in continuous flow delivery and can be a great solution if you lead a more relaxed lifestyle or require oxygen at night.

Traveling with oxygen concentrator

Portable oxygen concentrators are significantly lighter in weight than stationary home concentrators. In fact, some units can be as light as two pounds, with more versatile units topping out around 12-15 pounds.

Needless to say, portable oxygen technology has opened up the world of travel for patients requiring supplemental oxygen.

Air travel with portable oxygen concentrators

The FAA does not permit traditional oxygen tanks or liquid oxygen aboard airplanes, however, portable oxygen concentrators are considered safe and dozens of models and brands are approved. There are a few factors to consider to help you have a safe trip and avoid unnecessary delays or stress.

  • Talk with your doctor before booking your flight to discuss your oxygen needs and get a physician’s statement expressing your medical requirement to use oxygen.
  • Check that your concentrator is approved by the FAA and your selected airline.
  • Consider your battery requirements. Airlines and the FAA both require you to bring batteries sufficient to power your device for 150 percent of the expected maximum flight duration. Never rely on aircraft electrical power to charge your device during a flight.

Transporting oxygen cylinders in a car

Your POC can be powered by either rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or a vehicle’s DC power outlet, so whether you’re running around town or taking a cross-country RV trip, portable oxygen concentrators can give you the freedom to explore without dragging around a cumbersome oxygen tank.

If you’re considering travel by bus or train, oxygen systems are much more lenient when compared to flying. It’s a good idea to contact the service provider at least 48 hours prior to your departure to ensure all necessary assistance is arranged.

Cruises for the oxygen-dependent

Generally, cruise lines are very open to varying methods of oxygen therapy. If you’re considering a cruise, reach out to the cruise line when planning your trip because each cruise line has specific guidelines for traveling with oxygen (e.g., a medical release form to clear you for travel).

Portable oxygen concentrator FAA regulation

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled that all passengers who require oxygen must be allowed to bring FAA-approved POCs on all U.S. aircraft with more than 19 seats.

Foreign airlines must also allow portable oxygen concentrators on all flights to and from U.S soil. All OxygenDirect POCs are FAA approved, which means you can safely take them with you when flying.

Best portable oxygen concentrator for COPD patients?

Which Portable Oxygen Compressor is Right for Me?
With so many portable oxygen concentrator choices on the market, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To narrow the options, it’s helpful to prioritize the features important to you and communicate them to your doctor or oxygen therapy product specialist.

  • What does your prescription dictate?
  • How long should your POC operate between battery charges?
  • What are a comfortable size, weight, and noise level?

Technical specification of oxygen concentrator

Key Features to Consider When Weighing Your Options

Portable oxygen concentrator battery life

The battery life of POCs can fluctuate across brands, batteries, and settings. Typically, the harder a unit is operating the shorter the battery life (e.g., continuous flow requires more battery power than pulse dose).

Many units on the market today report that a single, fully charged battery will provide up to 4.7 hours of operation, and a double battery will provide up to 10 hours of operation.

Smallest portable oxygen concentrator

Size & Weight

Naturally, POCs are substantially lighter in weight when compared to home concentrators or alternative oxygen therapy methods. Some of the lightest units available only weigh about 2-4 pounds or roughly the weight of a pineapple.

Keep in mind that smaller, lightweight units deliver only pulse dose, typically have limited settings, and generally have a lower oxygen capacity. Medium POCs, ranging from 4-10 pounds are still able to be carried along with you and offer higher oxygen capacities and longer-lasting batteries than smaller units.

Large POCs, anywhere from 10-20 pounds, are often carried around with a mobile cart rather than an over-the-shoulder bag.

High capacity portable oxygen concentrator

The oxygen delivered by POCs is measured in LPM (liters per minute) for continuous flow or the equivalent thereof in ml/min (milliliters per minute) for pulse dose oxygen.

Your doctor will prescribe an oxygen flow rate, such as 2 liters per minute, which means you will have the equivalent of 2 liters of oxygen flowing into your nostrils over the duration of a minute. Prescriptions typically range from 1 LPM to 10 LPM with over 75% of patients requiring 2 LPM or less.

Portable oxygen concentrator noise levels

POCs are generally quieter than at-home concentrators as they are less powerful and have a smaller footprint. The sound emitted by concentrators ranges from 30 to 60 decibels, which can be thought of as a range from a whisper to a soft conversation.

If you require oxygen at night, a persistent noise may be disturbing for you or your
partner so it’s important to find the product that best suits your sleeping needs.

Use of oxygen at night

A Note About Using Oxygen at Night

If you require oxygen at night, most physicians recommend a continuous flow (at-home) concentrator. With continuous flow, patients consistently report a quieter experience that meets all oxygen needs with minimal disruption.

It’s important to note that stationery, continuous concentrators are powered by plugging into your home’s wall outlet. While most home units are equipped with a power failure alarm, it’s important to have a backup plan in the event of a power outage.

How long does a portable oxygen tank last?

While oxygen cylinders can run out of oxygen and need to be refilled, a concentrator will never run out of oxygen, as long as a power supply for the unit is available. Oxygen concentrators can produce oxygen 24 hours and last five years or more.

How much does it cost to buy an oxygen concentrator?

New home oxygen concentrators vary in pricing and usually cost between $600 and $2000 depending on batteries and other accessories. Customers can opt to purchase a used home oxygen concentrator, with prices that range from $400 to $1500 depending on the hours, warranty, and condition of the unit.

More on this story

How does an oxygen concentrator work?

  • How does an Oxygen Concentrator work?
  • How does an oxygen concentrator make oxygen?

What is a Portable Oxygen concentrator?

A portable oxygen concentrator is a medical device that helps deliver oxygen therapy to people who have low levels of oxygen in their blood.

Oxygen Concentrator Working Principle

Oxygen Concentrator Working Principle

The concentrator draws in room air and passes it through a series of filters that remove dust, bacteria, and other particulates.

Oxygen Concentrator Parts and Functions

Oxygen Concentrator Parts and Functions

The Oxygen Concentrator is intended for individual use as an oxygen supplement device in a home or care facility. The patient is the intended operator.