Skip to content

New to Oxygen Therapy?

Start here to learn the basics. 

Inform yourself to get the best solution.

If your doctor gave you a prescription for oxygen therapy, it means you can’t get enough oxygen into your bloodstream. Chronic obstructed pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and cystic fibrosis are the most common diseases impacting oxygen levels in your blood.

An oxygen therapy device remedies the problem by delivering supplemental oxygen into your system.

ABOUT OXYGEN THERAPY PRESCRIPTIONS

You cannot get oxygen therapy without a prescription.

Since we all need oxygen and it’s a natural substance, seems like we should be able to get therapeutic oxygen in the same way we can get purified water, another natural substance needed to survive.

But medical oxygen is different. It is highly concentrated and considered a medical substance, so it is regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and requires a prescription.

Prescriptions are not always easy to understand.

Depending on how your doctor writes the prescription, it will be easier or harder for you to figure out the right device to get.

Some doctors are very specific and the prescription will read something like “Patient to be set up with Phillips Respironics EverFlo Oxygen Concentrator — 5LPM, Rx: 2LPM while at home”. This makes finding a device super easy, because all you do is Google the product name and compare shopping results.

Other doctors are a lot more vague and the prescription might read, “Oxygen Concentrator, O2@2LPM, pulse dose”. In this case, it requires you to do a lot more research to figure it out.

ABOUT OXYGEN THERAPY DEVICES

There are two basic types of oxygen therapy devices: compressed oxygen or an oxygen concentrator. Compressed oxygen is probably what you first picture when thinking about supplemental oxygen: a huge, clunky tank with oxygen inside, so when the tank is empty, you need a new one. An oxygen concentrator is different. Rather than store a fixed amount of oxygen inside of it, a concentrator pulls oxygen from the surrounding air, so you never need to refill it. For many reasons, oxygen concentrators are a popular solution for patients, so that’s what we’ll focus on.

You must know this to find the right oxygen concentrator

How many liters per minute (LPMs) of oxygen do you need?

How should oxygen be delivered, by pulse dose or continuous flow?

Very generally speaking, the more LPMs of oxygen you need, the more likely you are to use a stationary, continuous flow device, and the fewer LPMs of oxygen you need, the more likely you are to use a portable, pulse dose device. A continuous flow device is more likely to be a heavier, stationary because it delivers more oxygen;  a pulse dose unit is more likely to be a lighter, portable one because it delivers less.

Again, these are broad rules of thumb, but it should help you wrap your head around the way oxygen concentrators work. If you feel overwhelmed, we have real, live, helpful humans who can assist you in figuring it out, so feel free to call them at (800) 515-8049.

Continuous flow devices are usually stationary concentrators for home use.

Most home concentrators are continuous flow devices. They are typically larger and able to provide more oxygen. While they usually have wheels to easily move from room to room, they aren’t considered to be truly portable devices that you would want to, say, use on a grocery store trip. Since they plug into your home power outlet, there is no need to worry about battery life.

Popular home oxygen devices, shown left to right from highest to lowest capacity.

Pulse dose devices are usually portable concentrators for use anywhere.

Portable oxygen concentrators are almost always a pulse dose delivery system. While they offer lower oxygen output than home concentrators, they are great for those on the go because they are lightweight and usually come with a carrying case for ease in traveling. Battery life is an issue — you really don’t want to run out of battery when you can’t recharge. Fortunately, there are many battery options to choose from, depending on how many hours you anticipate using the device between charges.

Popular POCs, shown left to right from highest to lowest capacity.

Only a few devices offer both continuous flow and pulse dose oxygen delivery systems.

Dual oxygen concentrators have settings that allow you to choose either continuous flow or pulse dose oxygen delivery. These can be a great option for those who use both delivery systems, however, keep in mind that they offer a maximum oxygen output of 3 LPMs.

 

Popular dual concentrators, shown left to right from highest to lowest capacity.