Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs)

* Please note that this website is meant to provide information and is not meant to replace medical advice from a doctor or other medical personnel.
While portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) can be a great option for some people, they are not appropriate for everyone.  Many oxygen delivery companies don't carry POCs as a common option and insurance might not cover them, leaving you to pay for it out of pocket.  They are expensive.   In order to determine whether a POC will work and which one is right for you it is important to consider the following points:
Pulse vs. Continuous Flow
The oxygen is delivered in one of two ways.  Either a continous flow of oxygen, or a pulse.  The continous flow is just as it sounds - the oxygen is always flowing.  The pulse method typically delivers oxygen when it senses the wearer inhaling.  The oxygen company will typically come out to evaluate whether the patient can use pulse flow.  There are some POCs that can deliver both pulse and continuous.  The type of flow though affects the weight.  Pulse flow can be harder to use when sleeping.  The POC senses the intake of air from the nose.  If you sleep breathe through your mouth when you sleep the POC may not deliver what you need.

Weight
Almost everything about the POC determines the weight.  POCs with continuous flow are heavier than pulse.  POCs that only deliver 2LPM are lighter than higher flow POCs.  The batteries on lighter weight POCs may not last as long.  If you require more than 2LPM and need continuous flow, a POC might end up weighing more than a tank.  The batteries can also make a difference in the weight.


Liters per Minute vs. POC levels
The levels on most POCs do not correspond to liters per minute.  This is a very common misunderstanding.  Being on level 4 of a light weight (6 pounds or less) POC is not giving you 4LPM of oxygen.  It might not even be giving you 2LPM.

Battery Life - Internal vs. External
All POCs have a limited battery life.  The level of the POC and how many breaths you are taking can all affect the battery life.  You'll use more battery when you are sitting on level 4 than you will on level 2.  You will likewise use more battery when you are walking using level 2 than when you are sitting using level 2.
If the POC has an external battery, you can always bring more batteries with you.  Keep in mind though that these batteries aren't AA.  These batteries can weight several pounds.
Flying With Oxygen
Only FAA approved portable oxygen concentrators can be used onboard a plane.  Click here for a list of these POCs .
POC Resources
The Pulmonary Paper gives a side by side comparison of common POCs in their May/June issue.