What is an Oxygen Concentrator?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Oxygen concentrators are medical devices.
Oxygen concentrators are medical devices.

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.

A concentrator is often used for delivering supplemental oxygen.
A concentrator is often used for delivering supplemental oxygen.

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.

A finger pulse oximeter may be used to assess whether a patient requires supplemental oxygen.
A finger pulse oximeter may be used to assess whether a patient requires supplemental oxygen.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


A good place where you can get some good oxygen concentrators is oxygen concentrator store. If you are in need of one, I would suggest checking them out.


Oxygen concentrators can be great for people who need to wear oxygen for months or years, since they save you the trouble and expense of dealing with oxygen tanks. The problem is, they only go up to a certain dose. Many people only need 2L or 4L per minute, and concentrators can do that just fine.

I am an EMT and we take people in and out of nursing homes all the time. They frequently have a concentrator by their bed at the nursing home. Most nursing homes, unless they have a special section for sicker patients, do not have a system for using tanks of oxygen. They only have the concentrator.

The problem arises when someone needs a higher flow of oxygen, or needs to wear a mask. The concentrator just cannot handle it. Most only go up to 6L per minute.

There have been times when we have had to bring someone back to the hospital while their family figured out someplace else to take them. Now we call ahead and check if we notice someone on more liters than a concentrator can provide.


@Nepal2016 - There are definitely models that are more quiet than others. They use concentrators a lot in the long term care industry, and you do get used to the noise after a while.

It sounds like you only had to have one for a short time, but if you should need one again go and talk to the guy at the medical supply place before you have it delivered. They may be able to help you pick out one that is not as loud.


The one problem I have with oxygen concentrators is that they are loud! My wife had one when she was recovering from a bad case of pneumonia. They wanted her to use it at night, so of course we got her one.

It was like somebody running a lawn mower next to my bed for a week. After a couple of nights tossing and turning I got used to it. There was really no alternative, she needed it, but I was glad to see it go.

Post your comments
Forgot password?