Breathing: COPD: Oxygen Therapy

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How is Oxygen Therapy Administered?

There are three basic ways that oxygen is provided to patients: oxygen tanks, liquid oxygen and oxygen concentrators. 


Oxygen Tanks


The first is through an oxygen tank or cylinder. Oxygen tanks often sit stationary inside the home. The user attaches tubing to the tank and then places the other end under the nose and over the ears. A “regulator” at the top of the oxygen tank allows the user to turn the tank to the flow rate that was recommended by they physician. Oxygen tanks can also come in portable forms. The advantages to oxygen tanks are that they are easy to use and are easy to learn how to use. The disadvantages relate to the tanks’ size and weight. For someone who is already short of breath, it can be very difficult to add another 10 to 20 pounds to port around.


Liquid Oxygen


Another option is a liquid oxygen system. With this option, the oxygen company delivers tanks of liquid oxygen to the user’s home, and the user then fills a portable system with liquid oxygen. The major benefit of this is that it’s a lightweight system that can last for a number of hours. The disadvantage of this approach is that it can be somewhat difficult for some patients to learn how to use it and patients must fill the portable tank themselves with liquid oxygen, which in some cases, can be quite intimidating.


Oxygen Concentrators


Another type of oxygen system is an oxygen concentrator. This is a device that takes oxygen from the surrounding air and concentrates it so that it can be delivered to the patient. The delivery is on demand so if the patient is trying to take a breath then the machine actually delivers the oxygen at that point. The benefits or advantages of this are that it can be very convenient.  It is battery powered and therefore, somewhat portable, but it is still heavier than the liquid oxygen system and it does require an energy source.