What is a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?
The invention of the portable oxygen concentrator has been one of the great medical advancements of the decade. It’s a streamlined, portable version of the traditional stationary oxygen concentrator, which is too large to easily move around. Unlike gaseous or liquid oxygen machines of the past, oxygen concentrators make their own oxygen from the air around them. They pull in atmospheric air that contains 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen and filter out the nitrogen, expelling it back into the environment, leaving nearly pure oxygen for the user to inhale. The oxygen is stored within the device (storage volumes vary depending on the model) and is distributed through plastic tubing into a cannula or mask to the patient. POCs deliver the oxygen as a continuous flow or intermittent (pulse) flow at a rate determined by the patient’s prescribing doctor. Intermittent flow devices only deliver oxygen during inhalation whereas continuous flow machines deliver it steadily. Some machines only offer intermittent flow while others offer both types.
Benefits of a Portable Oxygen Concentrator vs. Oxygen Tanks
Older oxygen machines used tanks of liquid or gaseous oxygen. This required a stockpile of replacement tanks on hand at all times. These machines were obviously tricky to maneuver and take on the go because of the large and heavy tanks. They were difficult to travel with because you’d need multiple replacement tanks, and airlines did not (and do not) allow oxygen tanks because of the risk of explosion.
The introduction of portable oxygen concentrators made travel and activities much more accessible to those reliant on supplemental oxygen. These machines are small and don’t require tanks. They can be carried in small shoulder bags or backpacks. The only thing you have to worry about is keeping the battery charged.
Benefits of POCs include:
- Small, quiet, and inconspicuous
- Do not require replacement tanks
- Simple to use (no complicated equipment or controls)
- Easy to travel with
- Can be used on commercial airline flights
- Can run for up to 2–16 hours on one rechargeable battery (depending on model)
- Are great for mental and physical well-being