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For patients with breathing difficulties or a serious lung disease, oxygen therapy could be the difference between a better quality of life and being dreadfully uncomfortable. However, when it comes to your health, it is essential to choose equipment that is going to offer you the most benefits.
This guide should serve as an introduction to the portable oxygen concentrator as well as giving you information to help you choose the right piece of equipment for your needs.
Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POC’s) Comparison Chart
Respironics SimplyGo POC
Inogen One G5 POC
Drive Medical iGO2 POC
Invacare Platinum POC
Pulse dose, continuous flow, sleep mode
Continuous Flow: 0.5 – 2 LPM, 1 – 6 pulse settings
1 – 6 pulse settings
1 – 5 pulse settings
1 – 5 pulse settings
87% – 96%
87% – 96%
87% – 94%
87% – 95.6%
Weight with Battery
11.5" (W) x 10" (H) x 6" (D)
7.2" (W) x 8.2" (H) x 3.26" (D)
3.5" (W) x 8.4" (H) x 8.6" (D)
7.5" (W) x 9.45" (H) x 3.88" (D)
43 dB (setting 2)
3 hrs (pulse dose setting 2), 54 mins Continuous flow (2 LPM
Up to 4.5 hrs (setting 2)
3.5 hrs (setting 2)
4 hrs with (setting 1)
2 years (machine), 1 year (sieve)
3 years (machine), 1 year (sieve)
5 years (concentrator), 3 years (compressor), 1 year (sieve)
3 years (concentrator), 2 years (compressor), 1 year (sieve)
What is a Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC)?
For some people with lung conditions, getting the right amount of oxygen from the air can be incredibly challenging. Since the air around us is made up of only 20% oxygen, it is not difficult to see how this might be a problem for someone with weaker lungs. However, the solution can often be found in oxygen therapy which serves to assist patients in getting the oxygen they need from the air.
A portable oxygen concentrator is a device that takes oxygen from the air and purifies it, delivering cleaner, purer oxygen to the lungs. It is important not to confuse this device with an oxygen gas cylinder which comes filled with oxygen and stores and delivers it to the user. Instead, the concentrator takes ambient oxygen and purifies it.
While there are many benefits to using this type of equipment, one of the main ones is that owing to the greater portability, users are not limited as to where they can use the device. If you want to continue to live an active life despite your lung condition, these compact appliances can help you to do that. What’s more, many of them usually come with a carry bag which can be worn over the shoulder for use on the go or outdoors.
This portability is further enhanced owing to the fact that the portable oxygen concentrator is powered using a rechargeable battery so you are not reliant on finding a power outlet to use your equipment. That being said, most models will come with a power cord so that you can hook up to mains power when you are at home.
The oxygen concentrator takes in air and separates nitrogen, this is delivered back into the surroundings while the oxygen is delivered to you through a plastic tube that attaches to a nasal cannula. While you would not be able to breathe in pure oxygen normally, the device will deliver air that is as concentrated as 90-95% oxygen.
Oxygen concentrators are thought to be much safer than an oxygen tank as these outdated pieces of equipment are known to catch fire or leak.
The type of oxygen concentrator that you require will vary according to your needs. For example, some people might benefit from a continuous flow concentrator which, as its name suggests, continually delivers oxygen through the tube. In contrast, some of the newer devices only deliver oxygen when you are breathing in which can mimic natural breathing more consistently. Regardless of the type of delivery system you are using, your doctor will have given you a recommended ‘liters per minute’ and this oxygen flow rate will need to be set by the user before using the oxygen concentrator.
Who are Portable Oxygen Concentrators Suitable for?
Oxygen therapy is designed to deliver oxygen through a face mask or a tube and aims to improve the level of oxygen in the blood for patients who may not be able to achieve sufficient levels when breathing on their own. If the oxygen in the blood is not at the correct level then this can cause you to feel short of breath, tired, and confused. Depending on the nature and severity of your condition, you can use oxygen therapy as a short-term treatment or over a much longer duration. Some people may require it permanently.
While it can feel a little intimidating to learn that you require this type of therapy, using it can bring about many benefits including the ability to remain active and getting a better night’s sleep which can improve your energy levels.
Many people may benefit from using oxygen therapy and according to when you need oxygen and how much, your doctor will prescribe the right amount. However, if your doctor has not advised you to use this oxygen therapy, you should never self-medicate using this treatment.
Typically, anyone with the following conditions may be suitable for this type of therapy:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
- Severe asthma
- Cystic fibrosis
- Shortness of breath
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Heart failure
What are the Benefits of Using a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?
If you have struggled with a condition that makes obtaining oxygen more difficult then you will be familiar with how debilitating this can be. However, by using oxygen therapy by means of a portable oxygen concentrator, you may notice several benefits which may include:
- Lead a more active and independent lifestyle – One of the most notable advantages is that, regardless of your condition, you may be able to continue to lead an active lifestyle and carry on doing the things you enjoy. Many people with lung conditions like those we have mentioned earlier find that they become much more dependent on others to complete certain tasks and this can be mentally and emotionally difficult. However, using a portable oxygen concentrator gives users the freedom and independence that they desire without compromising their health. Things like going to work, running errands, and taking part in exercise are all made vastly easier.
- More portable than oxygen cylinders – In days gone by, oxygen therapy may have meant having to carry a bulky oxygen cylinder around with you. Not only are these heavy and cumbersome but they can be incredibly restricting. The portable oxygen concentrators that we will look at in this guide are all lightweight and compact enough to use on the go. What’s more, a portable oxygen concentrator uses the air around you so there is no need to have the device refilled. You will never be short on oxygen.
- Airplane friendly – Just because you have a lung condition, that should not mean that you are unable to enjoy everything the world has to offer. Many people want to travel by plane to visit family, take part in business trips, take vacations, and discover some of the most wonderful sights on the planet. But the problem is that some equipment designed for delivering oxygen may not be suitable for use on a plane. The good thing about most portable oxygen concentrators is that they are FAA approved and as such, can be used on airplanes which is great news if you use this mode of transport frequently.
- Improves your quality of life – If you suffer from breathing difficulties or have a serious lung disease, not only can this be extremely uncomfortable, and even distressing on the worst end of the scale, but it can reduce your ability to complete even the most basic day-to-day tasks. Using a portable oxygen concentrator is a viable way of reducing breathlessness and it can help to improve your quality of life.
- Get a better night’s sleep – If you are struggling to breathe at night, this can prevent you from getting enough sleep and in turn, your energy levels will be depleted far more quickly during the day. Many people will wake up feeling lethargic and may struggle to make it through the day owing to lower oxygen levels. However, a portable oxygen concentrator is a viable way to improve the quality of your sleep which will also have a positive effect on your energy levels throughout the day, allowing you to be more active and productive.
- Improved cognition – When using a portable oxygen concentrator, studies have shown that the blood oxygen delivered to the brain is drastically increased. This suggests that cognition could be noticeably improved. While there have been no notable differences in performance between a POC and a regular oxygen tank, the fact that the former is portable and easier to use can mean that these cognitive benefits can be gained both in and out of the home which could be useful for those who need to remain more alert when out and about, further establishing their independence.
- Can make exercising easier – Taking exercise can become increasingly difficult for patients with degenerative lung conditions meaning that their physical fitness could suffer. Studies have shown that certain types of portable oxygen concentrators have improved the patient’s abilities to maintain healthy SpO2 levels, meaning that physical exercise could be considerably easier.
Types of Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs)
No two people are the same and since there are different types of lung condition as well as varying degrees of severity, each patient will have unique needs that need to be addressed in just as unique a manner. One of the best ways to address blood oxygen levels is to consider the type of portable oxygen concentrator; there are two main types and it is important to understand how each of these works.
The continuous flow portable oxygen concentrator delivers oxygen continually. If you are using your device while you are sleeping, this is typically the most suitable method of delivery since the breathing tends to be shallower during sleep. However, while you may need continuous flow at night, it is possible to combine this with a pulse dose during the day.
Continuous flow concentrators designed for use in the home tend to be much larger. While some portable devices will have a continuous flow feature, they are typically bigger and more difficult to take out and about. However, the benefit of having a greater generated oxygen output usually outweighs the downside of larger equipment for patients with more intense needs. If you have a smaller, portable oxygen concentrator then the smaller internal components can make it more difficult for the machine to generate enough oxygen to deliver a continuous flow.
Your doctor will prescribe you with a continuous flow rate in liters per minute which can be easily delivered using this type of system.
Pulse dose POCs are still in their infancy but technologically speaking, they have far greater benefits for patients who want to remain active and independent while still receiving the correct level of oxygen.
These devices are much smaller and more easily portable and since oxygen is not constantly being delivered, they tend to be much more efficient on battery life. While the continuous flow delivers oxygen at all times, the pulse dose will only deliver a burst of oxygen when the user breathes in, complementing their natural rhythm.
These devices benefit from various settings which allow the user to adjust the flow of oxygen according to their required liters per minute. A lot of users will be cautious about using this type of delivery when sleeping as there is an assumption that not enough oxygen will be given. However, thanks to various technological advances, the pulse dose system can detect a change in breathing when the user is asleep and adjust the oxygen flow rate accordingly. In fact, studies have shown that most models using the pulse dose delivery method yield the same results as a continuous flow system when asleep.
Portable Oxygen Concentrator Buyer’s Guide
Aside from understanding which type of POC would best meet your needs, there are several other considerations you should make before settling on a model. Rushing in and buying the first device you see can have a plethora of damaging results, most notably, you may not get the oxygen you require and your health might suffer. Take the time to consider the following points.
The last thing you want is a massive POC that is almost impossible to take out of the house. The idea of these devices is that the user can go about their lives with minimal disruption. Typically, POCs are relatively compact and since many come with a shoulder strap, they can be simple to carry without getting in the way.
Looking at the dimensions of the device should be one of the first things you check. Once you have a good idea of the correct size, you can move on to looking at the functionality of the device.
Since you will likely be looking to take your portable oxygen concentrator out and about with you, it is essential that it isn’t going to weigh you down. If you opt for a continuous flow delivery system, then you will have to expect that the device may be slightly larger and heavier, however, you will still want to choose the most lightweight option.
Some of the best portable oxygen concentrators boast an overall weight as low as 5 lbs which can be beneficial for users who are on the go for most of the day.
That being said, there are larger portable oxygen concentrators that come with a cart which can make moving them from place to place a lot easier.
It is vital that your POC has enough power to see you through the day, especially if you are on the go a lot. However, the length of time that the battery will last can vary greatly depending on the machine settings. For example, someone with a higher liters per minute setting may notice that the battery drains more quickly. As a rule of thumb, you can expect the battery to last between two and eight hours each day.
If you struggle to get your device to last throughout the day, there are some that come with a 12v connection. These can be plugged into the car while on the road and this is an excellent way to make the most of the device’s power.
The type of portable oxygen concentrator that you have will affect how noisy it is; typically, continuous flow devices are louder but looking at the decibels given in the product description will give you a better idea as to how noisy the equipment is.
If you are going to be using the device while you are asleep, it is likely that you will want something quieter, especially if you are sharing a bed with a partner. Most users will be looking for a POC whose noise isn’t so great that it will disturb other people when you are outdoors. This will also allow for a more discreet device as many people may not wish to draw attention to the fact that they are receiving therapy.
Flow Delivery Type
We have already outlined the pros and cons of the different types of flow delivery but it is important that we stress the importance of finding which one works best for you. If you need to make the most of both types, there are plenty of POCs that are capable of delivering both a continuous flow and a pulse dose. This is good for users who want to use continuous flow at night and pulse dose during the day.
However, the best way to find the right type for you is to speak with your doctor. He or she will be able to advise you on the correct type based on when you will be using the device and what for i.e; exercise, sleeping, or general use.
Continuous flow POCs are simpler in the way that they can be easily measured using liters per minute. In contrast, it can be much more difficult to measure the flow rate this way in a pulse dose system since continual oxygen is not flowing. However, these devices are typically measured using milliliters per breath and the pulse, known as the bolus, can be adjusted as such.
The downside to these devices is that it is possible to breathe in too hard and this can cause the machine to work harder than it is capable of.
When choosing your POC, it is essential to look at what it is capable of in terms of oxygen output. This refers to how many liters per minute it is able to dispense and whether this meets your requirements.
In addition, you should look at how many flow settings there are and compare these with your needs. The only way to be certain that a particular POC will be suitable for you is to compare the details with your prescription. Generally speaking, the lower your flow rate, the more options you will have. Some POC users require much more intense therapy and in this case, you may find that a portable oxygen concentrator is not suitable.
If you travel regularly by plane then it is vital that you are able to use your equipment on your journey. This means that you should look for a POC that is FAA approved. This approval by the Federal Aviation Administration means that you are free to take your device onboard an aircraft.
Best Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POC’s)
Even once you have got to grips with what you need to be looking for when choosing a POC, the choices may still be dizzying. We have put together some information on the best portable oxygen concentrators that may help you to make a more informed choice.
1. Respironics SimplyGo Portable Oxygen Concentrator
What we really like about this POC is that it boasts a durable design that will resist impact. For users that are always on the go, this is something that should never be omitted. Since this portable oxygen concentrator is a little heavier at 10 lbs, with the battery included, the wheeled cart can make transporting it much simpler.
It offers quiet operation at 43 dB however, in very quiet settings, this will generate low noise. The device is equipped with continuous flow between 0.5 – 2 liters per hour as well as 6 pulse flow settings, making it very versatile.
One of the most useful functions of this POC is that there is an option to purchase a humidifier add-on which can be used to keep the oxygen moist. If you find that you struggle with the nose becoming dry, this can be incredibly handy.
Additionally, this POC comes with a sleep mode which can be used while the patient is asleep. This will increase the trigger sensitivity and will deliver a softer pulse that is comfortable and won’t affect the quality of your sleep.
- Operation mode: pulse dose, continuous flow, sleep mode
- Oxygen flow: continuous flow: 0.5 – 2 LPM, 1 – 6 pulse settings
- Oxygen concentration: 87% – 96%
- Weight: 10 lbs
- Noise level: 43 dB (setting 2)
- Battery life: 3 hrs (pulse dose setting 2), 54 mins continuous flow (2 LPM)
2. Inogen One G5 Portable Oxygen Concentrator
One of the greatest benefits of this machine is that it uses intelligent pulse technology. Since a lot of users have a tendency to breathe out of their mouths, this can mean that the breath is not detected and adequate oxygen is not delivered. However, this technology means that, when breaths are not detected by the machine, it will revert to auto mode so that the patient never misses out on the vital oxygen that they need.
This smart device also boasts a Bluetooth connection so that users can link the POC to the corresponding app where settings can be adjusted. You can also perform a rest this way and check the flow rate, battery level and much more. However, if you prefer a more traditional form of operation, the clear and user-friendly screen will come in very handy.
This is a great option for traveling since the device is FAA approved. What’s more, it comes with a handy carry bag and a car charger. If you are always on the go, this would be an option worth considering.
- Operation mode: pulse dose
- Oxygen flow: 1 – 6 pulse settings
- Oxygen concentration: 87% – 96%
- Weight: 4.8 lbs
- Noise level: 38 dB
- Battery life: up to 4.5 hrs (setting 2)
3. Drive Medical iGO2 Portable Oxygen Concentrator
Operating at just 37 dB, this portable oxygen concentrator delivers the vital oxygen you need without the inconvenience of being overly loud. It benefits from smart dose technology that automatically adjusts the pulses according to how the user is breathing and also features a choice of 5 pulse flow settings.
This is an incredibly lightweight and portable POC that comes with a carry bag that has space for two additional batteries. On setting 2, you can expect the machine to function for up to three and a half hours, but there are also AC and DC connections for more power options.
The Drive Medical POC boasts increased durability thanks to the rubberized casing and comes with a five-year warranty for your peace of mind.
- Operation mode: pulse dose
- Oxygen flow: 1 – 5 pulse settings
- Oxygen concentration: 87% – 94%
- Weight: 5 lbs
- Noise level: 37 db
- Battery life: 3.5 hrs (setting 2)
4. Invacare Platinum Mobile Oxygen Concentrator
If you spend a lot of time on the go then it is essential that your POC is lightweight and compact. This model weighs just a little less than 5 lbs and boasts a truly compact size that doesn’t exceed ten inches in any dimension. It also features a discreet design and operates no louder than 40 dB.
The Invacare Platinum benefits from 5 pulse settings and can be linked to the compatible smartphone app for easier use. Alternatively, there is a control panel and LCD screen located on top of the device so it can be operated without being taken out of its carry bag.
One of the most wonderful features of this POC is that the batteries can be changed without disrupting the flow of oxygen. There is an option to use an AC or DC power connection for greater versatility.
- Operation mode: pulse dose
- Oxygen flow: 1 – 5 pulse settings
- Oxygen concentration: 87% – 95.6%
- Weight: 4.98 lbs
- Noise level: 40 dB
- Battery life: 4 hrs with (setting 1)