Is a Portable Oxygen Concentrator Right for You?

What is a POC?

A POC or portable oxygen concentrator is a compact, portable machine that transmits oxygen to its user through a nasal tube. These portable machines are designed to allow those who need oxygen therapy to live a mobile life while getting their needed oxygen. POCs use battery power and the oxygen around them to operate, giving their users the freedom of mobility.

How POCs Work

POCs take in air from the its surroundings. It then concentrates and filters that air to be used as a source of pure oxygen for the user. The air surrounding us mostly made up of nitrogen, with only about 20% oxygen. A POC takes in this air, separates the nitrogen and creates a high dose of oxygen (usually 90-95%) that then travels through a nasal tube for oxygen therapy.

Similar to a station oxygen concentrator, a portable oxygen concentrator operates by delivering liters of oxygen per minute. Stationary tanks are usually larger (and less portable) so they can often carry and produce a larger amount of oxygen. Because of the compact nature of a POC they can be more limited than a stationary concentrator.

Continuous Flow Versus Pulse Dose

Oxygen concentrators come with two oxygen distribution options—continuous flow and pulse flow. As the name implies, continuous flow concentrators give a continuous flow of oxygen to users, which is needed by a majority of oxygen therapy patients.

The other options, pulse flow, gives an intermittent dose of oxygen. Usually this dose comes when the user inhales. Pulse dose machines are often smaller and more compact because they don’t need to hold as much as continuous flow machines.

Discuss with your doctor which flow option is best for your needs and lifestyle before you purchase.

Making an Educated Decision

When determining if a POC is right for you, there is a lot to consider. Take notes of your daily activities. Would a POC fit into this lifestyle? Would it help you to continue to live your life as is? You should also consider your sleeping needs. Do you need oxygen therapy in your sleep? Is it the same dose you need during the day? Some people will have a POC machine for daily use for the freedom and mobility it allows but also have a stationary concentrator to meet their oxygen needs while they sleep. Knowing your needs and daily oxygen requirements is the first step to making an educated decision. Discuss with your doctor to determine your needs.

Another thing to consider when looking at machines—your future needs. Your oxygen therapy needs may change over time. To avoid purchasing another machine just a year or two down the road, consider how your oxygen needs could change and purchase a machine that can adapt.

Knowing your personal needs, discussing them with your doctor, and knowing the machines and options available will help you to make the best decision possible. There may be multiple machines that suit you, and you may even want to purchase more than one. But as concentrators as an investment, knowing what you are purchasing is key.