A buyer's guide to oxygen concentrators - Part 1

Understanding your prescription

First, you need to know and understand what your doctor is prescribing, and we can help. The prescription usually has 2 parts:

  1. How much oxygen you need. This can be written as liters-per-minute (LPM), which describes continuous flow of oxygen. This number is usually between 1 and 5. Alternatively, your doctor may prescribe a "setting" for pulsed flow oxygen; this number is also usually between 1 and 5.
  2. How oxygen is to be delivered. Your doctor may specify continuous or pulsed flow, but often will omit this parameter. This is because for most patients, either method is acceptable. Sometimes, the doctor will mention the type of oxygen mask or cannula that a patient should use; if this is not mentioned, the most common oxygen delivery method is through a nasal cannula.

Example of an oxygen prescription:

Continuous vs. pulsed flow

  • Continuous flow oxygen means that oxygen flow is always on.
  • Pulse dose oxygen is provided on demand, when oxygen device senses you taking a breath and delivers a burst of oxygen as you inhale.

Portable vs. transportable units

Portable machines are light and small enough for a user to carry. Some ultra-portable machines weigh around 3 lbs, and portable machines weigh around 5 lbs. Most portable machines provide only pulsed dose delivery of oxygen. Standard batteries usually last up to 4 hours, with extended batteries lasting up to 8 hours or so. You can charge or outright operate most portable units from an electric power outlet.

Transportable units are too big and heavy tocarry and are usually the size of the airline carry-on luggage. These units are usually mounted on wheels and you can roll them around your room or your house. These units operate from the electrical outlet and are usually not equipped with a battery. Most transportable units can provide continuous oxygen flow up to 5 LPM.

Oxygen therapyPortable oxygen concentrator