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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS | GENERAL INFORMATION | OXYGEN ON AIRPLANES

GENERAL INFORMATION

Clinical oxygen can be delivered to oxygen patients by a variety of medical devices described by the following technical and non-technical terms: oxygen concentrators, home oxygen concentrators, oxygen condenser, oxygen maker, portable oxygen concentrators (often described as a POC), liquid oxygen, oxygen generator, oxygen tank, oxygen bottle, and oxygen cylinder.  Use of non-technical terms to describe clinical oxygen sources implies more modes of oxygen delivery than actually exist.  In reality, clinical oxygen can be delivered by only three methods or modes. 

Clinical oxygen is typically delivered by the following modes: oxygen concentrators (including  home oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators or POC), liquid oxygen, and high pressure oxygen cylinders

VisionAireThe terms oxygen maker and oxygen condenser are often used interchangeably when the device being described is a home oxygen concentrator or a portable oxygen concentrator (POC).

Tanks, bottle, and oxygen cylinder are the terms often used to describer high pressure aluminum or steel oxygen cylinder used in conjunction with a flow regulator or conserver (typically used for ambulation).

 Liquid oxygen is the correct term describing the cryogenic fluid form of oxygen, o2, more on that one later. 

A final source of oxygen is the chemical oxygen generator (not to be confused with the oxygen concentrator). The chemical oxygen generator is exothermic (produces head) and is not currently used in the clinical setting.   

Each oxygen delivery mode has strengths and weaknesses, and represents a compromise of size, weight, and duration.  Advancements in technology have improved the versatility of the three most common delivery modes, oxygen concentrators, high pressure oxygen cylinders and liquid oxygen systems. 

The oxygen concentrator, home oxygen concentrator, and portable oxygen concentrator or POC are probably the most common oxygen sources used.  These systems come in a wide range of oxygen liter flows and physical sizes to fit most clinical oxygen applications.   As is common with most electrical mechanical devices, the smaller and lighter oxygen concentrators will have lower liter per minute flow capacities. 

Oxygen concentrators gather from the air, or concentrates, oxygen (o2), using a process technically described as pressure swing absorption (PSA).  Briefly, air is moved using a small compressor at low pressures, typically less than 20 PSI, into a vessel containing a catalyst commonly called zeolite which causes the molecules of nitrogen (n2), to stick to the catalyst but does not affect the catalystmolecules of oxygen, which are allowed to pass and are collected and delivered to the oxygen patients.  The catalyst looks and feels much like sand and is contained within a group of  vessels, usually two or more, commonly described as beds or sieve beds.  

You may have been around an oxygen concentrator and noticed a venting sound every now and again.  Often this venting sound will occur at identical intervals of 10 or 15 seconds.  The venting sound is the purging of a sieve bed and is typical to all oxygen concentrators. 

Home oxygen concentrators can be quite large, heavy (often in excess of 50 lbs), noisy , power hungry, and can easily heat a bedroom.  These systems are probably the most common source for home oxygen.  Their durability make them the first choice for home oxygen users.  Powered by any standard 120 volt AC wall outlet, the home oxygen concentrator works well anywhere in the USA.

A better choice:  Liberty Medical sell the Respironics EverFlo and AirSep VisionAire home oxygen concentrators. Both are available with a 5 year warranty. These small, quiet, and reliable home concentrators are less intrusive than home oxygen concentrators of the past. 

EverFloPOC is a relatively new product incorporating all the best technologies of the PSA home oxygen concentrator with the latest advancements in rechargeable lithium ion battery technology. 

Portable oxygen concentrators such as the Inogen One G2,Inogen One G3, Respironics  EverGo,  SimplyGo, and SeQual Eclipse 5 all use the lithium rechargeable batteries to allow oxygen patients to gain unprecedented freedom.  All POC devices carried by Liberty Medical are FAA authorized to be used on commercial flight. InogenOne G2
The Liberty Medical Link page shows the most current airline POC policies.

High pressure oxygen cylinders made of steel or aluminum preceded oxygen concentrators, POC, and liquid oxygen for delivery of home oxygen.  High pressure oxygen cylinders are not FAA approved, and cannot be taken onboard commercial flights. 

High pressure oxygen cylinders preceded oxygen concentrators, POC, and all other forms of home oxygen.  High pressure oxygen cylinders are not FAA approved, and cannot be taken onboard commercial flights. 

Liquid oxygen is not FAA approved and cannot be taken onboard commercial flights. Liquid oxygen is a super cooled form of oxygen.  Through a compression and cooling process, air is caused to liquefy (getting really, really cold), oxygen is separated off and distributed in the liquid form.   Liquid oxygen can be a great source for home oxygen and for ambulatory systems.  Liquid vessels must be kept up-right as they vent oxygen even when turned off. 

Oxygen generators or chemical oxygen generators are the forgotten oxygen source.  Not widely used, nor FAA approved for use by respiratory oxygen patients, these devices were once widely used as a source of emergency oxygen on commercial aircraft.  Chemical oxygen generators are exothermic and can be a fire hazard if not properly handled. 

This has been a brief overview of the currently available oxygen delivery modes and systems.  Please call for a more detailed and discussion of available equipment.