An oxygen concentrator is a medical device which is designed to deliver a concentrated flow of oxygen to a patient. The air from an oxygen concentrator has a higher concentration of oxygen than the surrounding ambient air, but the device does not rely on the use of oxygen tanks. There are a number of reasons to use an oxygen concentrator with a patient, and these devices are subject to varying degrees of regulation, depending on where they are being used.
With an oxygen concentrator, the device pulls air into a chamber which absorbs nitrogen. The oxygen-rich air is routed through a tube to the patient, while the nitrogen is vented harmlessly. Depending on the size of the device, it can filter and concentrate varying amounts of air per minute. Oxygen concentrators can be used in place, as seen in hospital rooms, and several companies also make portable versions which can be used by people while they are traveling or wish to be ambulatory.
Using an oxygen concentrator is much safer than using an oxygen tank. The risk of explosion is not present, and the device is easy to operate. One setting for oxygen concentrators is on the battlefield, where patients may require supplemental oxygen, but oxygen tanks could pose a serious risk to patients and health care providers in the event of an attack. Oxygen concentrators can also be used by patients at home with much more safety than oxygen tanks, requiring fewer handling precautions.
Many companies make oxygen companies designed for lease to patients, allowing a patient to rent a device as long as it is needed, rather than buying one. Models are also available for purchase, for patients who feel that the cost of purchase will be justified by long term use of the device. Patients who need to use oxygen concentrators on board aircraft and in other travel settings may want to contact the carrier ahead of time to alert them to the situation so that they can be prepared.
Having a portable oxygen concentrator can greatly increase mobility, which can improve quality of life for a patient using supplemental oxygen. Often, insurance companies will cover the cost of purchase or rental for this reason, especially if a doctor indicates that a portable device is medically necessary and will improve the patient's health. In the event of a dispute, it may help to ask a doctor to write a clear statement about the reasoning behind a request for a mobile oxygen concentrator.