For Patients suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Cystic Fibrosis (CF) as well as those suffering from less severe lung and respiratory cancer and Heart failure, a portable oxygen concentrator can be a lightweight and efficient solution to their oxygen needs on the go. Portable oxygen concentrators can provide patients with the oxygen they need to go on living as well the freedom of movement they need to maintain a balanced and fulfilling quality of life. Unlike tanks and cylinders, portable oxygen devices take in air from the environment and filter out nitrogen and other atmospheric gases to deliver concentrated doses of pure oxygen of purity greater than 95%.
Picking the right machine
The first thing you need to know is how much oxygen you or your loved one needs. The amount of oxygen required depends on the severity of the condition affecting the respiratory system. A common method of determining the right amount of oxygen is through Oxygen titration Test. Oxygen titration studies are usually done in hospital and recommendations based on the results of these studies are given by technicians and/or respiratory physicians. A prescription or recommendation will often specify how much oxygen is needed and whether it is to be taken throughout the day and/or during sleep with aid of a CPAP or BIPAP machine. If you are not sure about how much oxygen is required it’s often recommended to contact your attending physician or hospital before purchasing a machine.
The second thing to consider is whether the oxygen is to be delivered continuously or in boluses. Most Portable Oxygen concentrators deliver oxygen through two flow methods, Continuous Flow or Pulse (Bolus) flow. Continuous flow oxygen devices deliver an invariable steady stream of oxygen that can be set to a particular volume of oxygen per minute. This type of oxygen delivery is common in most oxygen tanks and cylinders and is usually the delivery of choice for patients with more advanced chronic conditions in need of continuous oxygen supplementation. Pulse or Bolus Oxygen delivery devices are a bit more specialized, these devices can detect when patients inspire and deliver puffs of concentrated oxygen (boluses) to each breath. The volume of oxygen delivered through Pulse Oxygen delivery is variable and highly dependent on the breath rate of the individual using the device. Pulse Oxygen delivery usually delivers lower volumes of oxygen compared to continuous flow delivery and are often used by patients with less severe respiratory conditions that still require oxygen supplementation. Due to their lower oxygen delivery and the reliance on patient initiated breathing, Pulse machines are usually not as effective for patients in need of oxygen supplementation during sleep. Understanding how much oxygen you need as well as the method of delivery required is crucial when selecting the most effective machine for your needs.
Once you know how much oxygen is required and the method of delivery that would best deliver the oxygen for you the last thing is selecting the right brand and model of machine to meet your budget and lifestyle needs.
Continuous flow Portable oxygen concentrators are often bigger in size and weight than Pulse Oxygen Concentrators and offer both delivery methods in their options, while Pulse machines are smaller and lighter but only offer the one mode.
Most portable oxygen concentrators are designed to allow the user to adjust the flow of oxygen on demand so using one of these devices can be quite intuitive.