Dear COPD Coach,
I am looking to purchase a portable oxygen concentrator (POC). My doctor says that I can use a pulse unit. I am looking at one that goes to 5 liters and has settings from one to five. I normally use two liters. Do I need to get one that goes all the way to five liters or should I get one that just goes to three?
Dear POC Confused,
First off, because a unit has a setting of 5 does not mean that it will deliver 5 liters. This is a mistake many of us make. We assume that a setting of two means two liters, and often it does not! If you look at the chart available at www.portableoxygen.org you will see a large variable as to what the different units put out. The other important factor is the size of the pulse of oxygen that is delivered, which you also will find is variable. The third factor is the delivery time. If the pulse is triggered late in the breathing cycle, you will not get full benefit of the pulse.
Unfortunately, many people select a concentrator because of how light it is, or how long the batteries last, or I have heard some say they selected it because it is “cute”. While weight and batteries are important factors, they mean little if you cannot stay properly saturated with the device. The other mistake people make is that they think because another POC they had or borrowed worked well on a setting of two, a different device would do the same. As explained above, this is wrong, and potentially dangerous.
Before purchasing a POC you should stipulate a trial period to make sure that the unit saturates you properly especially while doing the activities you intend. Keep a pulse oximeter handy and check your “sats” at different settings to make sure that you are indeed being properly saturated. Technology has come a long way, and today’s units are remarkably smaller and lighter. However, until there is standardization as to settings and size and delivery of the pulse, the buyer must make sure that the unit they select not only works for them now, but would also have reserve enough should their oxygen need grows in the future.
Another question we have been getting a lot of lately is “should the POC and batteries always be kept on a charge? The answer is YES!!!!!. Batteries that are allowed to drain and left that way for a period of time will deteriorate much quicker. This will become quite noticeable when they no longer last as long. New batteries for POCs are very expensive, so keep them plugged in and not stored away! Also, even though we have said this in the past, it bears repeating: If you purchase a used POC, plan on replacing the batteries. If one of the batteries is internal, that means it must be shipped to a certified shop which will be expensive. You should also take it to a qualified technician to measure the purity of the oxygen it puts out. Because the units are smaller, their parts can wear much more quickly and you may have to replace the seals and the valves which could exceed the price of a new unit.
Hope this helps answers your questions.
The COPD Coach
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