How does an Oxygen Concentrator Work?
An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that provides oxygen therapy to patients with respiratory illnesses. The air we breathe is made up of 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen and about 1% of other trace gases. An oxygen concentrator takes in atmospheric air through an Inlet Filter and muffler to a compressor. The air is cooled and then passes through a sieve canister containing the material zeolite, which absorbs nitrogen from the air. A steady flow of almost pure oxygen is then available for the user. The oxygen can be delivered through tubing (nasal cannula) or a face mask which can deliver more oxygen per minute. Oxygen output is generally measured in LPM – liters per minute.
There are stationary and Portable Oxygen Concentrators, both running off conventional power sources: plugs or batteries that can be purchased or leased according to need. Some newer models have Humidiflow Technology, a patented system that ensures the air delivered through the cannula is properly moisturized. Humidiflow eliminates the need for a bubble humidifier and prevents chapped skin and cracking.
Pulse dose technology is a relatively new therapy available in oxygen concentrators. In the past, the flow of oxygen to the patient was constant, whether the patient was inhaling or exhaling. The pulse dose system delivers oxygen in fixed amounts, thus preventing oxygen from being wasted. The efficiency of the oxygen concentrator is increased and this is particularly important in portable machines as they are smaller and have limited storage.
There are dozens of Oxygen Concentrators available on the market today. All have their own advantages and operational characteristics. The choice of product depends on how often the patient will be using oxygen, whether for just a few hours during the day, or at night when the patient is sleeping, or if the patient needs a continuous flow of oxygen twenty four hours a day. If the patient is ambulatory or maybe even still working part-time, these are deciding points when choosing an oxygen concentrator.
Some portable concentrators are specially designed to facilitate travel by air, and can be carried over the shoulder in a neat travel bag, or wheeled around like a small suitcase with a handle. Some fit under the airline seat and have easy access to the battery compartment for refills on a long flight.
The FAA has a current list of the brands of portable oxygen concentrators that are approved for flight. Be aware of the rules regarding traveling by air with the batteries that are required to run portable oxygen concentrators.
Be sure to have your physician sign a statement stating that you need the oxygen while traveling and that you know how to use and troubleshoot your equipment. Most portable concentrators are FAA approved and perfect for patients who have mobile lifestyles. Taking long car trips is much easier, as well. Portable oxygen concentrators come with a DC adapter that plugs into the “lighter” outlet and conserves the batteries for the time you are plugged into the running car.