Portable Oxygen: A User's Perspective

Selecting a Portable Oxygen Concentrator

The Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Portable Oxygen: A User's Perspective

Prior to the introduction of the LifeStyle portable oxygen concentrator by AirSep on March 18th, 2002 , there were no oxygen concentrators which could be easily carried, and none that were self contained with their own power source. Then in 2004 Inogen introduced its Inogen One, followed in 2006 by the introduction of three more Portable Oxygen Concentrators -- AirSep's Freestyle, SeQual's Eclipse, and Respironics' EverGo.

Today, the advances in portable oxygen concentrator (POC) technology provide us with many choices, all which not only run on AC and DC current, but  also are self contained with  their own battery systems.  Often advertised as an all-in-one solution to home oxygen needs, POCs have drawn the attention of not only patients  who have been prescribed long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT), but also the entire medical profession including doctors,  respiratory therapists, home care providers, and respiratory product manufacturers who routinely work with patients needing oxygen. Today's portable oxygen concentrators are not yet the all in one solution, nor will the replace the conventional systems (liquid, compressed and larger concentrators) in their entirety. Also, though similar in many ways, the portable oxygen concentrators are not all alike. You must carefully evaluate them to find the one that might be closest to filling your  needs.

Factors to consider in selecting a portable oxygen concentrator

The following factors apply to your specific needs.

  • Use
    • Short Trips
    • Day trips
    • Overnight trips
    • Long Vacations
  • Oxygen Requirements
    • How much supplemental oxygen do you require?
      • What are your needs
        • at rest
        • moderate exercise like walking
        • higher exertion (exercise etc)
        • sleep
      • Do you need continuous or can you use pulse delivery
        • Very few POCs have continuous settings

NOTE: If you are traveling to higher locations or flying, you may have higher oxygen needs due to the higher elevations.

  • Do you use a CPAP or BiPAP at night?
The following factors apply to the POCs that you are evaluating
  • Continuous and pulse vs. pulse only
  • Sensitivity for start of pulse
    • Especially important if using for sleep
  • The amount of oxygen delivered on each pulse (bolus)
  • Maximum oxygen output of the POC
    • Units are evaluated at 20 breaths per minute. Some units may not be capable of supplying your needs at faster rates (example 25 breaths per minute)
  • Maximum operating altitude
    • Aircraft pressurize the cabin to the equivalent of 8000 ft.   POCs that are not designed to function at that level or above are not suited for airline travel
  • Overall Size and Portability
  • Noise levels
    • Especially important for night time
  • Battery life
    • Internal Battery
    • External Battery
      • Recharge times
  • Accessories
    • AC/DC adapter
    • Carrying Bag
    • Cart
  • Repair history if available
  • Warranty

Try before you rent or buy
     Since all Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs) are not alike, with each delivering oxygen in a slightly different manner, it is important to rent the POC for a short time as a test before you rent or buy. The size of the bolus (the initial pulse) of oxygen delivered on each breath, the maximum amount of oxygen produced in a minute, as well as flow, trigger sensitivity and other characteristics differ between manufacturers and models. When you test, try to imitate the way you will actually use the POC.  A lazy walk around your home or the mall differs considerably from chasing the kids or grandkids around Disney World.

Should you rent or buy
     The decision whether to buy or rent a portable oxygen concentrator is an individual one that needs to be based on several specific circumstances, such as your finances, insurance coverage, health, and desired convenience level. At this time, it is also important to evaluate your potential future needs, since most POCs only provide pulse dose, and the few that provide continuous flow only go to a maximum of 3 lpm.

     Unless you will be flying, in which case your only option is the portable oxygen concentrator, you might do as well or even better selecting one of the conventional oxygen delivery systems.  As an example, there are liquid oxygen systems (LOX) that are lighter in weight, last as long or longer, and do not need to be dragged on rollers.  These same units also do not require electricity, are quiet, do not generate heat, and their capabilities are expandable as your medical situation changes over time.

Compare the FAA Approved Personal Oxygen Concentrators

Single Page Portable Oxygen Concentrator chart
                       (best for viewing online

2 Page PDF of the Personal Oxygen Concentrator chart
                   (for printing on letter size paper)

You have permission to print this document for your personal use. You also have permission to print, copy, and distribute this document to oxygen users and their caregivers.

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