I have been seeing a lot of posts recently about supplemental oxygen and thought I would explain very briefly about a couple of the primary sources of home oxygen equipment.Not all home oxygen equipment is created equal, and I thought it might be helpful to know the differences.
The first message I want to share with you all is that if you or your loved one is using an oxygen delivery system – do not smoke while it is in use! Just make that a rule in your house. If oxygen is in use, there should be NO open flames.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the equipment 😊
The most frequently used type of supplemental oxygen is a delivery system called a concentrator. They are usually large pieces of equipment that have wheels on the bottom, so you can move it from room to room if you needed.Most people actually leave them in the same place all the time and have enough oxygen tubing to get most anywhere they need to go inside their house.
This equipment is called a ‘concentrator’ because of the action it takes to first remove nitrogen from the air in your home and ‘concentrates’ the oxygen atoms giving you a higher concentration of oxygen when you take a breath in through the cannula. I love these machines because they are workhorses. They are reliable, easy to operate, and can even have humidifiers attached if you are experiencing dryness from extended oxygen use.This is not pure oxygen, only a more oxygen rich version of room air. Even though it isn’t ‘pure oxygen’ it is supplying your body with easily accessible oxygen and is supporting your respiratory system. We would refer to someone using this equipment as being ‘on oxygen’ or using their oxygen.
In addition to the concentrators, your DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company will often leave behind some green oxygen cylinders for you to use when you leave the house or in case of power outages.These will last a few hours if you are using a full tank at 2 liters per minute. (less time if you are running it at a higher flow rate).These green tanks are pure oxygen and should be stored in a secure manner, so they can’t fall over or be bumped around and damaged.
The last device I wanted to discuss is the portable oxygen concentrator (POC). These machines can be helpful, but they are not suitable for everyone requiring supplemental oxygen. POC’s deliver the oxygen only when triggered by a certain inspiratory force or inspiratory flow signaling the machine to send out a pulse dose of air. This is generally fine if your oxygen requirements can be supported by this type of measured air delivery or if you are sitting and not exerting yourself. The problem generally occurs when the person is out and about or up and around, and their body needs more oxygen to keep body oxygen saturations at a safe level.If you were using a large (stationary) concentrator or a green oxygen cylinder, you could just turn your oxygen up to 3 or 4 liters per minute or switch it from pulse to continuous flow. Not so with these little machines.They simply don’t have the ability to deliver a true continuous rate and are not able to concentrate oxygen to the degree the larger machines can. I have also had many complaints from patients who use these at night during sleep. They report that they feel the machine is not delivering enough oxygen and often have periods of waking throughout the night.
I am not saying that the POC won’t work for you, but it pays to be an informed consumer. Everyone’s needs are different, and everyone requires a different level of oxygen support.
Hope this is helpful information!