When you're first prescribed oxygen by your doctor, you will likely discuss the various options available to fit your needs. One of the first determining factors in starting oxygen therapy is figuring out if you’ll need a pulse or continuous flowing oxygen unit. Perhaps you’ve heard your doctor use the phrase "pulse" and "continuous flow" but do you really understand what it means? How does it correlate with machine settings? What’s the difference between the two? Which one is right for you? Let's explore the differences below:
If you are new to oxygen therapy, you may be overwhelmed with the information that you have been receiving, or you may be searching for more information. To assist your research, we have compiled a few key topics that you should know and understand about oxygen therapy.
Long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) has been shown by extensive research data to improve overall survival, reduce hospitalizations, increase exercise tolerance as well as promote general well-being and quality of life to those with chronic respiratory failure. Typically patients requiring this therapy have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Another lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis as well as well as cancers that affect lung function either from a primary lung cancer or secondarily from a malignancy that has spread to the lungs may also require LTOT. Cardiac disease, such as congestive heart failure or cor pulmonale, also benefit from oxygen therapy.
Some people who need oxygen therapy need a lot more than others to achieve the right oxygen saturation, and the pulse settings on some brands of oxygen concentrators can be misleading. This is why you need to be especially carefully when shopping for an oxygen concentrator to meet your oxygen needs.
The flow settings on portable oxygen concentrators with pulse dose settings of 1 – 5, for example, aren't necessarily the LPM or liter flow that you would get with a continuous flow concentrators, or compressed or liquid oxygen. You have to be careful and read the bolus sizes (the oxygen pulse sizes) and make sure this will be enough for you for each breath.
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.