Oxygen therapy is not a new treatment, but the technology behind today’s oxygen therapy is rapidly advancing. While oxygen tanks used to be the only real option for oxygen therapy, today there are both stationary and portable devices that can convert regular air into concentrated oxygen.
Both stationary and portable oxygen concentrators operate using similar principles. They take in air from the surroundings, separate the oxygen from the other gases, and deliver concentrated oxygen to the patient through a breathing tube. (See our previous post about how oxygen concentrators work.) The two main differences between stationary and portable concentrators are their size and flow rates.
Stationary oxygen concentrators are generally larger and heavier than the portable oxygen concentrators, but they can also offer higher flow rates and are often recommended for patients who need more oxygen than portable concentrators can provide. Stationary oxygen concentrators can deliver 3 to 10 liters of oxygen per minute; portable models deliver from 1 to 5 liters per minute.
Stationary oxygen concentrators weigh between 40 and 60 pounds and generally need to be plugged in to a wall outlet to work. They are sometimes called home oxygen concentrators because they are designed to be used in a home environment. Most come with wheels to be taken to different rooms of the house and can handle limited travel, but the focus of these models is reliability and flow, not portability.
Portable oxygen concentrators provide greater flexibility for respiratory patients who do not require high doses of oxygen. They can run on a variety of power sources and can charge from a wall outlet, a car adapter, or a battery pack.
Portable oxygen concentrators are made small enough to carry in under one arm, in a backpack, or attach to a cart or walker so the patient can move about freely at home or while traveling. Portable concentrators weigh between 5 and 20 pounds and many come with carrying cases or carts for additional convenience.
Portable concentrators are generally considered a complement to a home concentrator, rather than an alternative, giving the patient the security and reliability of the stationary model and the freedom of the portable model. However, there are some manufacturers who are trying to build a device that will combine the reliability and flow rates of a stationary concentrator with the portability and convenience of a portable concentrator.
As always, please consult with your doctor before making any decisions regarding what oxygen concentrator is right for you. Your doctor can advise you on whether a stationary or portable concentrator is best for your situation.