All organs of the body need oxygen to function properly. In pulmonary fibrosis (PF), scarring in the lungs prevents enough oxygen from being transferred to your bloodstream. Thus, as the disease progresses, you will likely need supplemental oxygen at some point during your treatment to maintain normal oxygen levels in your blood.
Depending on the severity of disease and your life-style, you may need supplemental oxygen only at night, during exercise/activity, or even all day long. By increasing the amount of oxygen in your lungs, oxygen therapy (also known as supplemental oxygen) may help decrease shortness of breath and help you stay active.
Two common ways of delivering oxygen therapy are via oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators. Both devices are available as stationary and mobile units and can be used to deliver oxygen to you at home, outdoors, during travel and in hospitals.
You probably have many questions in mind when deciding between an oxygen tank and an oxygen concentrator for your supplemental oxygen needs. It is an important decision as it will affect your lifestyle moving forward. We have listed features of both below, to help you make an informed choice as to which device may be best for you.
|What are they?||Metal tanks containing pressurized oxygen or liquid oxygen released at specific flow rates to provide oxygen to the patient||Devices with a filtering system that take in air from the surroundings and concentrates the oxygen to deliver it to the patient|
|How oxygen is delivered to the patient?||Through a tube connected to the tank on one end and to a nasal cannula or oxygen mask on the other; a flow control regulator can be attached for pulse flow||Through a tube connected to the concentrator on one end and to a nasal cannula or oxygen mask on the other; can be continuous flow, pulse flow or both|
|Mounting||Generally, on a rolling apparatus (small trolley or cart) that can be rolled alongside a patient or on an in-home-use stand||Small portable models that can fit into a bag pack or shoulder bag or larger stand-alone stationary models for in-home use|
|Weight||Heavy, as require a dense metal tank||Light weight|
|Power requirement||None; Do not need to use a battery or electrical outlet||Rely on battery or electrical power; thus if a device runs out of battery, the concentrator will shut down. Important to consider available charge in the battery or availability of an electrical outlet|
|Maintenance||No regular cleaning or maintenance required except wiping down the surface of the cylinder; Oxygen canisters need to be stored upright and secured||External filters need to be washed once per week; The concentrator needs to be wiped down regularly to remove dust, dirt and grime; Home needs to be clean and as dust-free as possible because a dusty environment will affect the lifespan and functioning of the concentrator|
|Sound||No beeps or loud sounds. Good for use around other people and in quiet environments like movie theaters, libraries and for sleeping||Noisy, due to the various components at work. However, newer models are designed to reduce the noise to very low levels|
|Cost||Lower initial cost. However, greater cost over time as they need to be refilled or replaced frequently||Higher up-front cost, but very little long-term maintenance cost|
|Capacity||Limited content, tank has to be replaced or refilled once oxygen is depleted||Unlimited oxygen; the concentrator can continuously draw in and treat air and will never run out of oxygen|
|Safety||Small possibility of a leak causing safety concerns due to an increased chance of fire ignition||Safer, create oxygen as needed, limiting the concern for oxygen leaks|
|Other Precautions||Need to keep track of oxygen use and ensure that tanks get refilled or replaced on time||Needs to be watched for overheating as the machine may turn off abruptly if used continuously for long periods and will not operate until it cools down|
|Additional Features||None; they provide oxygen at a rate determined by adjusting the nozzle||Warning alarms for low battery power, alarms to notify of oxygen dosage adjustments and timer systems to keep track of length of use; warning light if the oxygen concentration is less than 85%|
Which device you choose would depend on many factors such as your lifestyle, your oxygen requirements, budget and how much you travel. Here are some important factors to consider.
How much oxygen do you need?
When choosing a device, it is important to consider whether it offers your prescribed flow rate as this is an important specification.
Oxygen tanks are available in a number of sizes. The choice of volume will depend on your recommended oxygen flow rate and the length of time you require the oxygen for. The size of the tank will influence it’s weight, thus larger the volume, heavier the tank.
High capacity concentrators are available for those with high oxygen requirements. If you need a large amount of oxygen, a concentrator will likely save you money in the long run and will probably be more convenient as you will not have to worry about constant refills and tank replacements.
How often do you travel or leave the house?
Both oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators are available in high-capacity stationary (nonmoving) sizes and portable sizes.
Highly Active or Traveler Lifestyle: Oxygen concentrators are battery powered and come with adaptors that can be plugged into a car or run on AC or DC power. They allow patients much more mobility than a traditional tank due to a significantly lower size and weight. FAA and TSA approved models are allowed on airplanes and can fit under a seat or in an overhead compartment. A portable concentrator would be ideal for someone who has an active lifestyle and who loves to travel.
Moderately Active Lifestyle: A combination of a larger oxygen concentrator with a smaller oxygen tank is deal for someone who mostly stays at home but needs to go out on short outings occasionally.
Home or Generally Inactive Lifestyle: A large capacity oxygen tank or a stationary concentrator would be the best option for a person who is fairly stationary; this can accommodate moving around a single room or home.
What is your budget?
Since supplemental-oxygen devices can be quite expensive, budget is an important consideration when selecting one.
Oxygen tanks are generally cheaper up front, but the cost of future refills and tank replacements may add up to more in the long-run. Liquid oxygen tanks are lighter than compressed oxygen tanks but are more expensive. Oxygen concentrators are more expensive upfront, but do not require a lot of future maintenance. If you can afford to pay an initial higher price for a concentrator, it may save you money over time, because it eliminates the need for refills and tank replacements. You would have to consult with your insurance company to see what costs they will cover. Medicare and similar insurance systems will likely pay for the cost of a standard stationary oxygen concentrator, but may not cover the additional costs of a portable concentrator. Thus, a lot of people forgo the portable model, but it can be well worth it if you are someone who values the freedom to travel and have an active lifestyle.
What are your anticipated future needs?
As your disease progresses or during a period of sudden decline, your oxygen needs may increase. Thus, it is important to consult a homecare company and a pulmonologist that can help you choose a system that can grow with your increasing needs.
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