You, your health care provider and your oxygen supplier should all work together to choose the oxygen system that is right for you — one that takes into account your lifestyle and activities, as well as the amount of oxygen you need. The goal is to have oxygen equipment that you can and will wear, so you can keep enjoying your usual activities.
Some of the factors to consider when choosing your system and equipment are listed below:
The two main types of oxygen systems currently available are:
Additionally, there are now portable oxygen concentrators (POCs), which can be used for travel.
The compressed gas system consists of a concentrator, to be used in the home, and a small oxygen tank, to be used outside the home. The liquid oxygen system consists of a stationary concentrator or reservoir to use while you are in your home and an ambulatory tank to use when you go out. The portable oxygen concentrator can serve as both the ambulatory device and the stationary concentrator in certain circumstances.
|Type of System||Ambulatory Component||Stationary Component|
|Compressed gas system||Small, pre-filled tanks delivered to you on a weekly basis, depending on how much oxygen you are using, or tanks that fill overnight at home (aka a home-fill system) from your concentrator||Oxygen concentrator with 50-foot tubing|
|Liquid oxygen system||Small, refillable tank that you fill from the reservoir as needed||Oxygen reservoir with 50-foot tubing|
|Portable oxygen concentrator (POC)||A small electric device that can be wheeled around, runs on regular electricity or a battery, is easily recharged even in a car, and requires no tanks or filling. The maximum tubing length for proper delivery of oxygen is 7 feet. These units can be taken onto airplanes.|
While the terms portable and ambulatory oxygen equipment are often used interchangeably, there is an important difference. In 1999, the 5th Oxygen Consensus Conference differentiated between portable and ambulatory oxygen systems.
Portables are defined as easily moved devices that are not designed to be carried and weigh more than 10 pounds. Ambulatory devices are defined as weighing less than 10 pounds, available for daily use, designed to be carried by the patient, and lasting four to six hours at a setting of 2 liters per minute. They are normally small aluminum cylinders or liquid oxygen containers equipped with oxygen conserving devices (OCDs).
E tanks are the larger, older metal tanks that are wheeled around. They can be the right choice for some people and situations, but are generally not considered to be ambulatory devices. They are often used as back-up systems in the home, should the electric power in the home fail.
The oxygen conserving device (OCD) is the device on your tank or portable oxygen concentrator that makes the oxygen supply last longer. It causes the oxygen to be delivered only when you take a breath. Not all OCDs deliver the same amount of oxygen as a continuous flow would, so it is important that your oxygen saturation be tested at rest and with activity while you are using the OCD, to make sure you are getting enough oxygen.
Several accessories come with your oxygen equipment. In addition, there are accessories to make wearing or carrying your oxygen more comfortable. Below are examples of a few basic accessories.
Rates of 4 liters/minute or greater are considered higher oxygen flow.
Your provider can help you choose an oxygen company, or you may choose any company you want. Some insurance policies dictate which oxygen company you must use.
Most insurance policies cover supplemental oxygen when the medical necessity for oxygen is demonstrated. This necessity is based on the oxygen saturation or the arterial blood gas measurements.
Generally, if your O2 saturation falls below 89 percent, or your paO2 falls below 60 mm Hg — whether at rest, with activity or during sleep — then you qualify for supplemental oxygen. For more information, see The Need for Supplemental Oxygen.
Your oxygen supply company will give you instructions for cleaning your equipment. Some basics are listed below:
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
Interstitial Lung Disease Program
400 Parnassus Ave., Fifth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2577
Fax: (415) 353-2568