Portable Oxygen Concentrators and How They Can Improve Your Life

Oxygen Therapy – What Is It and When Might You Use It

The demand for supplemental Oxygen therapy is increasing as people age, and medical conditions become more prevalent. In particular, lung disease, which affects 2.6 million Australians, has a profound impact on many people’s lives and their families.

The most common category of lung disease is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), where it is estimated that one in seven Australians, over 40 years of age, suffer from some form of it. COPD is a progressive and irreversible lung condition and includes a range of diseases. Some of these include ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ‘emphysema’, or a combination of the two, where damaged lung tissue and narrowing of the airways makes breathing difficult. Whilst the disease cannot be cured, it is possible to slow the rate of progression through a number of factors, such as a healthy diet and exercise.

It is estimated that one in 16 Australians is likely to develop lung cancer before the age of 85 years3 and forecasts predict that this figure will increase in the future and asthma sufferers currently represent 10% of the population (about two million people).There are also several other less common forms of lung disease, including asbestosis, interstitial lung disease ( that most commonly affects children), pulmonary arterial hypertension and pulmonary fibrosis.

Lung Condition Benefits from Early Diagnosis

While each lung condition has its own unique physiological basis and medical treatment plan, all lung conditions benefit from early diagnosis.

Many people require supplemental Oxygen as their medical condition worsens. Commonly, people are supplied with an in-home concentrator and several Oxygen gas bottles to assist them to live at home and provide them with a degree of mobility outside the home. An in-home concentrator produces continuous flow Oxygen with machines varying in output from 0.5 litres per minute (LPM) through to 5 or 10LPM.  Oxygen can be supplied via a nasal cannula – a piece of plastic tubing, with two curved nasal prongs that sit in the front of the nostrils or by way of a face mask.

All Oxygen concentrators work by drawing in the surrounding air, passing it through a sieve bed extracting the Nitrogen and storing the oxygen under pressure.

As a person adjusts to their changed circumstances, where they now require supplemental Oxygen, they begin to look for more a more versatile and cost effective Oxygen solution – one that will enable them to move about more freely and return to a more active lifestyle.

Portable Oxygen Concentrators as Oxygen Supplement

Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are a relatively new means of supplying supplemental Oxygen, whilst at the same time, giving an individual greater personal freedom. Over time, the POCs have reduced in size and weight through the provision and supply of pulse Oxygen. This is where your breath triggers the release (pulse) of Oxygen and is a method that significantly lessens the demand for Oxygen, compared to a continuous flow machine. The majority of people can comfortably use pulse delivery Oxygen whilst out and about, although it is recommended that you check with your doctor first. Many people will combine a continuous flow machine at home and maybe at night with a pulse delivery POC if out during the day.

Lightweight Mobile Oxygen Concentrators

The recent arrival in Australia of the LifeChoice ActiVox is a state-of-the-art example of a compact, lightweight unit. Able to produce up to 3LPM, the ActiVox has a battery life from between 5 to12 hours (depending on the setting 1 through to 3LPM) and weighs only 2.2kg. The newer units also use improved technology in the way the oxygen is delivered. For example the Auto Mode Technology automatically adjusts Oxygen delivery to meet your needs and ActiVox adjusts to higher respiration rates, whilst you are active, and adjusts Oxygen delivery to reflect your altered breathing patterns whilst asleep. Although the ActiVox can be used while sleeping, it is not suitable for use with a CPAP machine.

The unique Pulse Wave Technology of the ActiVox delivers Oxygen continuously during the first 30% of each respiration, to ensure maximum intake of Oxygen. This mode of delivery also reduces the side effects of retrograde flow (as experienced with continuous flow delivery) minimising potential side effects, such as dry or irritable nasal passages.

As a general rule, increased output is reflected in an increase in size and consequently, the weight of a POC.  For example, the Philips 'Simply Go' weighs 4.5kg, yet has a maximum pulse delivery capacity of 6LPM. In addition, the Simply Go can produce continuous flow oxygen up to 2LPM and has a 'sleep mode', which adjusts Oxygen delivery to reflect the changed respiration pattern while resting. 

Although there is a wide range of POCs available in the marketplace, we recommend you purchase good quality units and wherever possible, arrange to have a trial of the unit prior to purchase. An extremely important consideration to keep in mind is the type of ongoing support offered by the company.  We will supply an equivalent unit if at any stage your POC requires maintenance and warranty periods vary anywhere from 2 to 5 years, depending on the manufacturer and supplier.

Concentrators Oxygen Production Quality

Oxygen concentrators produce medical grade Oxygen, from between 87 to 96% +/- 3%. The in-home units also have wheels, allowing easy movement throughout the home as needed. The POCs generally feature at least two ways of carrying the unit, usually by handle or shoulder strap, with some models allowing for a backpack. The heavier units are generally supplied with a trolley and most quality POCs can be used whilst flying, although airlines do require you to complete a form in advance of travel. It is always advisable to check if the POC is approved for travel by the respective airline before booking. With a little ingenuity, a POC can be used with a walker, wheelchair, power chair or a mobility scooter.

A POC will revolutionise your lifestyle. You’ll be able to get out and about, meet with friends and family and travel. Furthermore, units can be charged from either mains electricity or from a car charger.  Suitable for travelling in trains, planes, cruise ships and caravans – there will be a POC that will meet your specific Oxygen and lifestyle needs.

Lung Foundation Australia website
Accessed 5 July, 2013

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