Choosing the right oxygen concentrator

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device for people suffering from respiratory insufficiency (hypoxemia). The operating principle is to concentrate the oxygen in the air by removing the nitrogen. 

In a medical setting, oxygen therapy is used to improve and stabilize blood oxygen saturation levels. 

An oxygen concentrator is made up of:

  • The device itself, i.e. the concentrator, which includes housing with a compressor, filters, a tank, etc.
  • Consumables such as oxygen administration tubing, adult/pediatric oxygen cannulae, oxygen masks, etc.

View oxygen concentrators

  • What criteria should you take into account when choosing an oxygen concentrator?

    There are five main criteria to consider when purchasing an oxygen concentrator: oxygen concentration rate, flow rate, portability, noise level and power supply.

    • Oxygen concentration: this rate must be between 87% and 99%. 
    • Flow rate: an oxygen flow rate of 2 L/min is usually sufficient for home care oxygen concentrators. However, some pathologies require a higher flow rate and it is possible to find concentrators with up to 10 L/min.
    • Portability: there are fixed oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators. Portable models are often preferred as they are easily transportable from one hospital ward to another for example. However, fixed models usually have larger tanks.
    • Noise level: the noise level of an oxygen concentrator is normally between 31 dB and 60 dB, which is equivalent to a quiet conversation or a normal voice in a calm environment. Some brands produce even quieter models.
    • Type of power supply: oxygen concentrators are usually connected to the electrical network for continuous use. This type of device does not consume a lot of electricity. Other models are battery-operated.
    Invacare portable oxygen concentrator

    Invacare portable oxygen concentrator

    UniProdo oxygen concentrator

    UniProdo oxygen concentrator

  • Is it worth buying an oxygen concentrator?

    Scaleo oxygen concentrator

    Scaleo oxygen concentrator

    An oxygen concentrator has several advantages over liquid oxygen cylinders: it allows you to have oxygen everywhere, it is easy to install and it is less expensive.

    • Supply source: the supply source for an oxygen concentrator is ambient air, which is available everywhere. This makes it possible to produce oxygen wherever you are and whenever you want. This is an undeniable advantage over a liquid oxygen cylinder that empties regularly and quickly and requires a continuous refill or replacement service to ensure patient treatment. For home oxygen therapy with oxygen tanks, patients may live with the anxiety of not receiving their refills on time and running out. With an oxygen concentrator, you can be sure that you will never run out of oxygen.
    • Installation, portability, weight: oxygen concentrators do not require any particular installation and can easily be transported if you choose a portable model. When walking, a patient can similarly carry a portable oxygen cylinder (a stroller), but its autonomy is limited, which is why some patients prefer to stay at home or go out very little if using oxygen cylinders. An oxygen concentrator is also lighter (between 2 and 3 kg) than an oxygen cylinder which weighs 4 kg or more, depending on the filling level.
    • Low energy consumption: oxygen concentrator devices consume little electricity. Some models can also run on batteries, but depending on their autonomy and the size of the batteries, these devices might be heavier to carry.
    • Cost: one of the other main advantages of an oxygen concentrator is its cost, which is significantly lower than that of oxygen cylinders. An oxygen concentrator also only emits oxygen when the patient is in the inspiration phase, while  an oxygen cylinder emits oxygen in a continuous flow (in the inspiration and expiration phase), which is less efficient. 
    • No significant training required: oxygen concentrators are designed to be used by caregivers and users who do not require any special training to operate them.
  • What precautions should be taken when using an oxygen concentrator?

    Several precautions should be taken when using an oxygen concentrator, including regular filter cleaning and spot checks of the concentration.

    • Regular filter cleaning: cleaning the device’s filter regularly reduces the risk of fire. No special training is required to learn how to properly clean the device. Simply remove, wash, dry and replace the filter and/or pre-filter.
    • Spot check of the concentration: a spot check of the oxygen concentration is important to ensure the device is operating efficiently. If the concentration is low, there may be a kink in the tubing that delivers oxygen to the monitor, in which case the tubing or sensor must be repaired. The problem can also come from the filters, which will need to be replaced if this is the case.
  • What are the indications for use and potential side effects of an oxygen concentrator?

    Here is a list of the indications and potential side effects of an oxygen concentrator:

    • Indications: oxygen concentrators are recommended for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, pneumothorax (collapsed lung), lung cancer and sleep apnea.
    • Potential side effects include skin irritation or nasal dryness, but these are related to prolonged use of the device.
  • Where and when can an oxygen concentrator be used?

    An oxygen concentrator can be used anywhere as long as its supply source is ambient air. It can be used at home, in public places, in the car and even on planes (with a medical certificate). For this last point, please note that some countries such as the United States have specific regulations.

    In the case of daily oxygen administration, this type of device can be used at any time, including at night, but only after a study of the patient’s sleep and using a low-noise model.

  • Do you need a prescription for an oxygen concentrator?

    An oxygen concentrator is considered a medical device and must therefore be prescribed by a specialist before use.

    A respirologist, a pediatrician with expertise in chronic respiratory failure in children, a physician from a cystic fibrosis resource and skills center, or a physician from a pulmonary arterial hypertension skills center can issue this type of prescription.

  • How long does an oxygen concentrator last?

    Depending on the type of oxygen concentrator (fixed or portable) and the model, the the device can last on average between 4 and 7 years. These devices usually come with a warranty.

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