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Oxygen Therapy

What You Should Know

Oxygen is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that is necessary for life. When we take a breath, we draw air containing 21% oxygen into our lungs. The oxygen passes from our lungs into our bloodstream, where it is carried in the red blood cells to all the organs and tissues of our bodies. Oxygen is needed by our organs and tissues to convert the food we eat into heat and energy to maintain life.

Oxygen is not addicting. We all need oxygen to live. If your lungs and/or heart are diseased and cannot supply enough oxygen to your body from normal room air, you need to breathe supplemental oxygen.

Oxygen therapy is usually delivered as a gas via an oxygen source such as an oxygen concentrator, cylinder or portable oxygen concentrator (POC). The oxygen is breathed through a nasal cannula or mask that covers the mouth and nose.

Once your physician has determined that you should receive oxygen therapy, you will be tested to find the right amount of oxygen for your needs. Oxygen therapy is usually prescribed in Liters Per Minute (LPM) and helps to increase the level of oxygen in the blood.

Oxygen Concentrator

An oxygen concentrator is a device providing oxygen therapy to a patient at higher concentrations than available in ambient air. They are used as a safer, less expensive and more convenient alternative to tanks of compressed oxygen.

Often, people that use oxygen concentrators will need service on the device. During these service visits, we will ensure that your oxygen concentrator is working to the best of its ability.


Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC)

Typically, these devices produce one to five liters per minute of oxygen, and they use some version of pulse flow or "demand flow" to deliver oxygen only when the patient is inhaling. Not every oxygen patient can use a POC, but the devices create more independence for many folks. These portable concentrators typically plug into an electrical outlet like the larger, heavier stationary oxygen concentrators. Only a few portable oxygen concentrators that produce up to three liters per minute of oxygen continuously are currently available. Also, they can provide pulses of oxygen either to provide higher intermittent flows or to reduce the power consumption.

Portable oxygen concentrators can also be plugged into the accessory outlet of a vehicle, and most of these devices have the ability to run from battery power. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States has approved the use of portable oxygen concentrators on commercial airlines. However, users of these devices should check in advance as to whether a particular brand or model is permitted on a particular airline.

Usually, "demand" or pulse-flow oxygen concentrators are not used by patients while they sleep. There have been problems with the oxygen concentrators not being able to detect when the sleeping patient is inhaling. Some larger portable oxygen concentrators are designed to operate in continuous-flow mode in addition to pulse-flow mode. Continuous-flow mode is considered safe for night use when coupled with a CPAP machine.




Gaseous (cylinder) Oxygen

Oxygen Cylinders are the simplest way to provide oxygen patients with the ability to leave the home. Gaseous oxygen is filled into a tank and a device called a regulator is attached to the top of the tank, allowing the gas to be dispensed at the specific Liters Per Minute (LPM) that a physician has prescribed. Typically, a patient would connect either a cannula or an oxygen mask to the regulator attached to the oxygen tank. This allows for direct use of the oxygen therapy.

Oxygen Conservation Devices (OCD)

Some patients may be able to use an OCD in place of a regulator on their portable oxygen tanks. An OCD operates with 'on demand' delivery that occurs when the patient inhales, thus triggering a release or 'burst' of oxygen that is delivered through the cannula directly to the patient. Only your physician can recommend an OCD for your home oxygen therapy.


What if I need to Travel with My Oxygen?

We offer our current patients POC usage designed to fit any traveler's oxygen needs. The FAA requires that all POC units be accepted as qualified medical devices on any domestic flight within the United States. These regulations change frequently; please contact us for the most up-to-date information.