Continuous Flow vs. Pulse Dose Oxygen Concentrators

There are two main types of portable oxygen concentrators: continuous flow and pulse dose. Both types concentrate oxygen from the surrounding air and deliver it to the patient through a breathing tube, but the continuity and volume of flow is different for each type.

Continuous flow concentrators provide a constant, or continuous supply of oxygen to the patient. There is oxygen flowing through the breathing tube the whole time that the machine is on, regardless of what the patient is doing. These devices weigh anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds, depending on the included components such as batteries or a cart.

Pulse dose concentrators deliver oxygen only when the patient breathes in. These machines offer a lighter weight design because they produce a great deal less oxygen. They are more compact and weigh only about 4 to 12 pounds. They typically come with a shoulder strap or are able to fit into a backpack, making them much more portable than the continuous flow variety.

The reduced ability of pulse dose concentrators to produce oxygen makes it an option only for those that do not require a heavier concentration of oxygen. So many patients receiving oxygen therapy are not able to take advantage of this lighter weight technology. However, continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators can still be convenient for use at home or traveling, thanks to the many options of carts and carry devices that come with the concentrators.

In the past, only continuous flow concentrators were recommended for use while sleeping, but recently several companies have begun offering pulse dose concentrators with settings specific to detect the lighter breathing of sleep.

Only a physician can make the best recommendation for what type of device a patient should have based on that individual’s condition and needs. If you use or are considering oxygen therapy, talk with your doctor about whether continuous flow or pulse dose is best for you.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

12 thoughts on “Continuous Flow vs. Pulse Dose Oxygen Concentrators”

  • Judy Helsell

    Need to know how much this unit is.Also the cost of another battery as a back up.What is the life expectancy on this battery?I am looking for a lightweight for my Mom She is ok to use pulse but I wanted the longest longevity on a battery.Also a backup battery is the unit isn't out of our range.My mothers highest dollar amount she can afford is 2,000.My number is 262 689 1770

    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason August 7, 2017 at 1:41 am

      Thank you for your comment, Judy. I have passed along your information to one of our Oxygen Specialists and they will be reaching out to you regarding your request. Remember, you can always reach us at 877-303-9289 or via email at [email protected]

  • anna

    I am looking for a portable oxygen concentrator for my mother who has pulmonary fibrosis. She is on 0.5L/min only. Would a pulse dose work for her?

    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Anna. That depends on a few medical and personal factors. I have passed along your information to one of our Oxygen Specialists who will reach out regarding your request. If you'd like more immediate assistance you're welcome to inquire directly at 877-774-9271 or at [email protected]

  • David Armbrecht
    David Armbrecht January 10, 2018 at 3:56 am

    I have been on 3 L /min cont. for 9 months. I have never tried pulse dose or had any testing in that regards. My breathing improves when i do my exercises and treatments at home. Are there cases where pts. like me can switch to pulse dose? I need more specific info to purchase a machine. Of course would like to be at the 5 lb. range os machines.

    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your question, David. This is something you would need to discuss with your doctor. Your individual doctor will have the insights into your specific medical condition and medical history to best advise you on switching to a pulse dose delivery system.

  • Troy Sanders

    Is there financing available for these units?

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 25, 2018 at 6:31 am

      We do have financing options available and can view that here
      I have passed along your information to a specialist who will reach out regarding your request. For more immediate assistance feel free to give our specialists a call at 888-360-9628 or if you prefer email [email protected]

  • Anna

    I have severe Multiple Chemical Sensitivity I get horrendously sick from any artificial scent (plastic off gassing, cleaning agents, fragrances, etc). Oxygen helps me restore after exposures. I have been using delivered oxygen 5 l/min in cylinders. I am interested in finding the POC. I do not know if that would work for me, I cannot have it if it smells of chemicals. I do not know what would work best continuous flow or pulse, What brand is the most reliable. What maintenance they need?
    Thank you, Anna

    • Ed Rodgers

      Anna, I think only you will be able to address this concern. Like any new device it may temporarily have an odor to it. One thing is if you do find it to be bothersome and have to return it you can get a full refund if you return within 5 days and only a restocking fee inside 30 days.

  • Edward M Eastwood Sr
    Edward M Eastwood Sr October 12, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Have a old machine.How long will the battery last model of the battery is 4ICR19/65-3

    • Scott Ridl

      The SimplyGo battery's life depends on what mode you are using the machine on (pulse or continuous) and what setting of oxygen you are using. Please give us a call and we can talk you through how long your battery should be lasting on each setting.


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