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.