A portable oxygen concentrator (POC) is a small lightweight device for people who need supplemental oxygen or greater concentrations of oxygen than is found in the air. In the past, to obtain supplemental oxygen people would need to use high-pressure oxygen in heavy containers, and the suppliers would need to visit the person’s home frequently to replenish the oxygen. This meant to travel in general was severely limited and they couldn’t travel on planes. With the development of the portable oxygen, concentrator life is much easier for people requiring additional oxygen. The POC fits conveniently in the car increasing the person’s independence and many concentrators have FAA approval to be taken on airplanes.
With improvements in technology, POCs are becoming more portable and efficient. In the past, oxygen systems could barely provide enough battery life to allow you to go grocery shopping, but today portable concentrators are helping many patients enjoy longer trips in the city where they live and even other parts of the country. A portable system may not be what you require, this will depend on your individual oxygen needs, but as the technology continues to improve, POCs are becoming more popular. With all the options available, it’s important to have the facts for the portable units that are available now to fulfill your oxygen requirements.
Today there are two types of portable concentrators available including pulse dose and continuous flow concentrators. Most of the portable oxygen concentrators manufactured today are the pulse dose type. These two types of oxygen systems come with certain limitations and benefits and are best matched with a particular type of patient. By understanding what each machine is capable of you will be able to decide which machine is best for you.
Stationary oxygen concentrators were the most popular type several years ago. which would take up a large amount of space, limiting your maneuverability in your home. However, for patients who need large amounts of oxygen and don’t want to bother about tank refills, these large stationary concentrators were a good solution.
Portable oxygen concentrators function in the same way stationary oxygen concentrators do but they are smaller and can’t produce as much oxygen. All oxygen concentrators work by taking the air from your room, which is about 21 percent oxygen, then concentrates it to 95 percent pure oxygen. As you breathe it, it increases the amount of oxygen in your blood.
To meet the wider range of oxygen demands, the continuous flow concentrators are usually somewhat bigger. A unit could weigh up to 18 pounds so you may need a cart to help transport the oxygen supply.
Pulse dose portable oxygen concentrators do not deliver oxygen continuously and the person needs to inhale to get a dose. These machines are usually recommended for patients with low oxygen requirements. Pulse dose machines usually operate on AC/DC battery power and an advertisement stating the battery life is usually based on the lowest setting. Before choosing one it is recommended to calculate the amount of battery life you will need based on the oxygen output you will require. The pulse dose portable oxygen concentrator lacks the range of oxygen delivery but it makes up for it with portability. Some of the latest pulse dose concentrators only weigh about four pounds, making them truly portable. Because of the low weight and small size, they usually come with a backpack or shoulder straps making it convenient for carrying.
Here are the top five portable oxygen concentrators:
- Respironics SimplyGo – this unit produces both pulse flow and continuous oxygen and weighs only ten pounds. SimplyGo is unmatched for safety with alarms for high breath rate or no breath detection to name a few. This is an ideal model for those needing a high flow of oxygen.
- Inogen One G3 – it is small enough to be held in one hand and weighs less than five pounds. It is the lightest POC available and offers up to five pulse flow settings.
- SeQual eQuinox – at eleven pounds, eQuinox is the lightest portable concentrator available that can deliver continuous flow oxygen up to three liters per minute.
- Lifechoice Activox Pro 4L – this is the lightest oxygen concentrator available today. The battery lasts more than 10 hours. It is a small but powerful machine.
- AirSep FreeStyle 5 – this is a good choice if you want to have an active lifestyle. You can carry it in a backpack or shoulder strap and the control panel is easy to use.
Generally, for most oxygen dependent patients the continuous flow units are better suited because they produce more oxygen. In addition, it is capable of handling more issues than a pulse dose type. If you need between two to five liters of oxygen every minute, the portable continuous flow oxygen concentrator may be your best choice.