Sometimes an oxygen concentrator with a high flow is necessary to meet a patient's oxygen requirements. A higher setting is often needed for more severe cases of low oxygen in the blood stream. When someone with healthy lungs takes a breath, they are really only breathing in 21% oxygen in the air. For someone with moderate to severe COPD, that percent will be much lower.
"High flow" Units have settings that go as high as 10 LPM (liters per minute) of continuous flow. Some can only go up to 5 LPM, while the highest settings that POCs have are 3 LPM and 196 ml/min of pulse dose oxygen.
To clarify, continuous flow oxygen settings put out a constant flow of air through the nasal cannula or mask. Pulse dose releases oxygen in pulses, also referred to as a bolus. Some portable oxygen concentrators have both continuous flow and pulse dose settings, while some only have pulse dose settings. Stationary unit only have continuous flow settings.
Portable concentrators can't be high flow because they need to be small enough to carry around comfortably. High flow continuous flow oxygen concentrators are more powerful, and need to be larger to hold all the inner workings needed to run on high settings.
This might change in the coming years, however, with the advancement in medical technology. Oxygen concentrators, both portable and stationary, are getting smaller and smaller. Possibly in a few years, we might see the release of a portable oxygen concentrator that can be as small as the ones now, yet offer 4 LPM or 5 LPM of continuous flow oxygen.
They also have a built-in humidifier that can be used on the higher settings. The humidifier is necessary on the higher oxygen settings, because the higher flow of air can be much drier and more irritating to the airways. The humidity from the built-in humidifier helps to cut down on irritation and issues like a bloody nose or sore throat. You may even need to use this on the lower settings during particularly dry times of the year.
High flow oxygen concentrators are larger and heavier than the ones that only go up to 5 LPM. The heaviest and largest is the AirSep Intensity 10, which weighs in at 58 lbs and stands at 27.5 inches tall and 16.5 inches wide.
The Invacare Platinum 10, and the Respirionics Millenium 10 both weigh 53 pounds and are both around 18 to 19 inches tall. The AirSep Intensity can be used as a nebulizer machine. Despite their weight, they can still be easily taken from one room to another because of the wheels on the bottom.