What you need to know about the portable oxygen concentrator
As our population ages, more and more people who are suffering from shortness of breath are finding relief by using an oxygen concentrator that can go where they go. Shortness of breath and other respiration issues affect all aspects of lifestyle, and sufferers tend to be less active than they could be to maintain optimal or even workable overall health.
Fortunately, modern medicine and modern technology have come up with some pretty good answers that can really help people recover a measure of respiratory health, regain some mobility, and restore some overall vitality. This post addresses the handy device called a portable oxygen concentrator, which many people now use and appreciate on an on-going basis. It has literally been a life-changing and enhancing development for many thousands of people. These are people who have been able to start to view themselves again as ‘people’ more than ‘patients.’
First, what is a portable oxygen concentrator?
An oxygen concentrator is a machine that uses room air and separates its two most common molecules: nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2). The machine expels the nitrogen and stores the oxygen which is then delivered to a patient who will benefit from a higher-than-room-air O2 concentration. The O2 concentrator is a device used to provide oxygen therapy to patients who have COPD, emphysema, or any other heightened respiratory requirements. The goal of all these devices, both the stationary oxygen concentrator and the portable oxygen concentrator is to have patients achieve and maintain a healthy blood oxygen saturation level, as measured by another device called an oximeter. Maintaining good blood oxygen saturation is critical for overall health, and it will improve your quality of life, reduce symptoms of COPD, relieve emphysema-related distress, and improve most all aspects of healthy organ function. The concentrated oxygen is delivered to the patient’s nose area through a small, lightweight and flexible tube called a cannula.
Two Different Kinds: The Stationary and the Portable Oxygen Concentrator
The oxygen concentrators which are not easily portable are relatively large machines that are primarily intended for bedside use. The concentrator pumps in room air, strips out and emits the nitrogen, and then lightly pressurizes and stores the concentrated oxygen for continuous delivery to the patient through a nasal cannula. An oxygen concentrator of this type can typically deliver up to 10 liters per minute (LPM) at concentrations between about 30% to 90% oxygen. Recent scientific and manufacturing advances have allowed for O2 concentrators that are more efficient and small in size.
Starting in about 2000, the portable oxygen concentrator started to be widely available. They have become much lighter and smaller and can conveniently be taken out and about. Usually they are either taken on a small holder similar to a luggage carrier that has wheels for easy motion on the ground, or are carried via a strap across the shoulder. One of these can now deliver up about 6 LPM of oxygen. The most common portable oxygen concentrator will use a pulse flow of oxygen so that it is only delivered while the patient is breathing in. When a breath is started, it results in a slight decrease in pressure right at the opening of the nasal cannula. This pressure drop is sensed by the device, which immediately initiates a flow of oxygen from the workings of the concentrator. The flow is then turned off as the patient breathes out.
More on using a Portable Oxygen Concentrator
Now, ten years after its initial introduction, the portable oxygen concentrator has become commonplace. It adds a huge dimension to patients’ overall mobility and quality of life. Patients can now go shopping, drive around town, and even enjoy air travel. This has meant that people who would previously have had to stay home and employ someone else to take care of many ordinary errands, etc., can now take back responsibility for so many daily tasks, as well as pleasures. They can now participate much more fully in their own lives than was possible only a decade or so ago. Even many people who are relatively less strong can successfully use a portable oxygen concentrator by driving to their destination and then carrying or pulling the device along. Just this factor alone of regaining a large measure of independence has accounted for a huge uptick in the quality of life for men and women who are able to use the new technology. Many brands of portable oxygen concentrator units have been approved by the FAA for consumer airline travel, so be sure to check if the one you own or may be planning to buy is, in fact, FAA-approved. They are compact, light-weight, adjustable, and convenient.
As of January 2010, the following models of portable oxygen concentrator were small enough to have been FAA-approved.
• AirSep Lifestyle
• AirSep Freestyle
• DeVilbiss Healthcare’s IGo
• Delphi Medical Systems RS-00400
• International Biophysics Corporation’s LifeChoice
• Inogen’s Inogen One G2
• Invacare XPO2
• Inogen One
• Oxlife’s Independence Oxygen Concentrator
• SeQual Eclipse
• Respironics EverGo
The most important adjustment on any portable oxygen concentrator is flow, or LPM (liters per minute) concentration. The higher the flow, the sooner the unit’s batteries will become exhausted. A home unit will likely be plugged in to wall electricity instead.
Every oxygen concentrator requires a power source. The biggest problem with that is that batteries are relatively heavy, and so manufacturers attempt to balance a compromise between weight and battery life. Most portable oxygen concentrator units can now last 6 to 8 hours at a setting of about 2 liters per minute. The maximum setting on many portable machines is about 6 LPM, and so if you need more than 6, you are probably faced with using compressed oxygen in canisters or tanks. Every one of the concentrator units we have studied comes with recharging devices that will let you recharge on standard AC household current. Some units are equipped to handle standard batteries for very short-term use.
Some other popular manufacturers and brands of oxygen concentrators include:
• Phillips Respironics EverGo
• DeVilbiss IGo
• Inogen One G2
• Invacare XPO2
• SeQual Eclipse 3
• LifeChoice® Oxygen Concentrator, by Inova Labs
• Delphi Evo Central Air
Best Practices Ideas for using your Portable Oxygen Concentrator
This post is not intended to be medical advice. If you are suffering from COPD or emphysema or any other chronic respiratory ailment, it is critical that you work closely with your medical professionals and follow your team’s recommendations. Some of the symptoms are at least related to, if not caused by, some previous life-style choices you may have made in the distant past or up until relatively recently. All of the reading we have done suggests that you can still maintain involvement in an active life style provided you make a full commitment to a complete focus on living in health. Let’s face it, the degree to which you or anyone is not fully committed is the degree to which their health-related suffering continues to deteriorate.
Many patients regularly use convenient pulse blood oximeters to monitor their oxygen saturation levels over time. This will enable you to set either your portable oxygen concentrator or the larger unit you use at home to the proper level to maximize the long-term benefits.
Any kind of moderate exercise program your doctor or health team recommends can further contribute to the effective use of oxygen concentrators. If you can better learn to anticipate, you’ll be able to avoid or minimize those feelings of oxygen deficit that are so troublesome, and adjust the flow on your oxygen concentrator before the need becomes more acute.
Oxygen is not in itself flammable. Rather, it greatly increases the combustion rate of any fire. For both clinical and emergency-care environments, oxygen concentrators are not as dangerous as pressurized oxygen cylinders or tanks. Nonetheless, extreme care needs to be taken so that any oxygen concentrator, whether portable or effectively fixed by its larger size, which is turned on is kept away from any flame source. Unlike the pressurized tanks, portable oxygen concentrators are often favored in military environments or disaster situations.
Oxygen concentrators are actually fairly simple machines that are difficult to tamper with or to operate with gross negligence. They are used by individual patients by prescription for home use for various respiratory ailments or diseases, and to treat more severe sleep apnea, in conjunction with a CPAP machine.
If you are tempted by the lower cost of either a used or a refurbished unit, make sure you purchase through a reputable and well established dealer that is registered with the Better Business Bureau and does business locally, and this will maximize your chances of having a reliable portable oxygen concentrator.