Portable Oxygen Concentrators

A POC or portable oxygen concentrator is a device, which is used in order to provide a patient with oxygen therapy that exceeds the concentration of atmospheric air. They are similar in structure and use to home-based oxygen concentrator but are smaller and, therefore, more portable. This allows for patients to travel and move with the assurance that they have oxygen therapy nearby should it be required. These devices are small enough to be placed in the car and have also recently become FAA approved.

The Development of Portable Oxygen Concentrators

POCs have been available for several years but the past models have been excessively bulky and not nearly as reliable as those currently on the market. These older models were also not permissible on aircraft. Since the year 2000, the reliability of the devices has increased in both practicality and efficiency. They are able to be charged using a house outlet or in the car using a vehicle adapter. They can also be used through the use of batteries so that they can be used when no outlet is available.

How Does the Device Function?

The technology that is used in the portable oxygen concentrator is the same, which is used, in home concentrators. Barometric pressurized air contains approximately 21 percent oxygen along with nitrogen and a cocktail of various other gasses. The compressor within the machine pressurizes the air using a chemical filter system, which is used as a sieve for the gas molecules. The filter is composed of silicate granules, or Zeolite, which removes the nitrogen from the air. This serves to concentrate the oxygen, which is then inhaled by the patient. Part of the oxygen is used this way, while a percentage of the gas is reused in the next cycle. Through the use of this process, the filtering system is able to produce high quality concentrated oxygen of approximately 96% concentration.

The most recent models of POCs are powered using electricity supplies or battery packs which allow the patient to remain free from the use of cylinders or other heavier options which could restrict movement. The majority of these devices operate on a pulse delivery system, which allows for maximum oxygen purity.

Benefits of On-Demand POCs

The majority of POCs are quite light and small which can be achieved due to the use of an on-demand system. This allows the portable oxygen concentrator to be composed of smaller pieces than a home oxygen system. The fact that the individual only inhales oxygen, the on-demand device allows for the patient to receive all of the oxygen that they require and no more, thereby eliminating the risk that unnecessary oxygen will be wasted.

The majority of on-demand systems come with a variety of settings that release a certain number of liters per oxygen each minute. Using the correct amount of oxygen prevents the waste of oxygen when the patient exhales as oxygen is only required during inhalation and not exhalation.

This technology is accomplished with the use of boluses that can vary depending on the breathing rate of the patient. This is particularly useful when sleeping when the rate naturally slows. A machine that utilizes a variable bolus system is able to detect the slowed rate of breathing, so that it releases the required amount of oxygen at a slower rate to accommodate the longer, slower breaths taken.

Although some physicians will recommend a continuous system as opposed to an on-demand system during sleep, the new devices are found to be just as effective as nighttime oxygen therapy. However, they should not be used in individuals who suffer from sleep apnea.

For more information on oxygen concentrators, visit http://oxygenconcentrator.org.


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