The Difference Between Pulse Flow and Continuous Flow Oxygen
When choosing which portable or home oxygen concentrator is right for you, the first question you should ask your doctor is, “Do I require pulse dose or continuous flow oxygen?” Some brands of concentrators only offer pulse flow, while most at-home devices offer only continuous flow. However, there are a number of portable oxygen concentrators on the market today that offer both options in one device for those who’d like to experience the best of both worlds.
In order to determine which flow setting you should use, you should first learn about what each setting means and how they work. Let’s dive in!
Pulse Flow Oxygen
Of the two oxygen settings, pulse flow is much more efficient. Portable concentrators with pulse flow oxygen are designed for people with an active or ever-changing lifestyle who require ultimate freedom. It is recommended for patients with a low oxygen requirement of up to 2 LPM (liters per minute). Pulse flow oxygen is based on your breathing rate, and focuses on the amount and intensity of each breath you take.
Pulse technology detects when you are about to inhale and delivers a bolus (pulse dosage) of oxygen at the start of your breath. After supplying you with a burst of oxygen to breathe easier, the concentrator will rest and wait for your next breath. This is made possible due to the device’s built-in oxygen conserver. With pulse flow technology, oxygen can be stored in the conserver to be saved for when your breathing rate increases, you become suddenly active, or whatever the case may be. Many patients enjoy this method of oxygen output since pulse flow devices are usually small, compact, and can be easily carried from place to place.
It is important to note that each brand of portable oxygen concentrators is different. Your device may be able to provide you with a pulse dose of oxygen from any setting between 1 and 8, but each device differs in regards to the breath detection time and output rate. Additionally, a setting of 2 on one device may not necessarily produce the same results as another device on a setting of 2. Make sure you check with your physician to determine which brand would suit your needs and lifestyle best.
If you are going to be traveling or always on the go, we recommend you test your concentrator out before you go so that any adjustments can be made where necessary. Here are all the FAA approved, pulse-only concentrators we offer that you can choose from:
Continuous Flow Oxygen
If your activity level is very minimal throughout the day, you may want to consider using a continuous flow concentrator. These devices don’t feature any breath detection technology like a pulse dose concentrator would, but instead delivers a constant, steady stream of oxygen to you. Continuous flow devices are mostly stationary, home concentrators that remain plugged in to keep producing oxygen, but there are some portable devices that offer it along with a pulse dose setting. Keep in mind that portable oxygen concentrators run on battery life, which will deplete more quickly on a continuous flow setting as opposed to pulse flow.
A patient is usually prescribed continuous flow oxygen if their oxygen requirements are 5 LPM or greater. If you breathe through your mouth more than your nose, you might also find this to be the better option for you. The reason why pulse dose devices are not recommended for 24/7 usage is because sometimes during sleep, shallow breathing might be an issue. Pulse technology can’t always detect a shallow breath during sleep, resulting in an alarm being set off that wakes the user several times a night. Patients with sleep apnea should address this with a doctor when deciding what oxygen concentrator to use. Continuous flow concentrators can be used with a CPAP or BiPAP during sleep if needed.
Another factor to consider is the amount of oxygen being wasted on the continuous flow setting. Unlike the pulse dose devices, continuous flow devices do not have an oxygen conserver to store excess oxygen. Oxygen is still being produced even if you aren’t taking a breath. This is more of a concern with POC’s that offer both pulse and continuous settings, as a constant stream of oxygen will more quickly deplete your battery juice. Here are our devices that offer both settings:
If a continuous flow device sounds like the right choice for you, take a look at our home oxygen concentrators to learn more about each device:
So, What’ll It Be?
A common analogy for each flow setting is the water fountain vs. the straw. Continuous flow is represented by the water fountain. Once you turn it on to take a drink, water is constantly flowing. If it were to deliver one liter of water in its continuous stream, you would only be taking sips and not actually drinking a whole liter. The water that you didn’t drink between sips would go to waste and isn’t necessary. On the other hand, pulse flow is represented by the straw. You are taking periodical sips of water and only drinking the amount you need, eliminating excess water from going to waste.
The main difference is that one setting is controlled while the other is not. Which would you prefer? Let your doctor or respiratory specialist know what your lifestyle is like, if you are active, if you require a CPAP or BiPAP, and how much battery life you will need. Your doctor will be able to pinpoint what oxygen concentrators you can choose from, and will help you determine your required liter flow rate for your particular conditions. It is really up to your personal preference and how you would ideally like to receive oxygen therapy.
Liberty Medical makes it easy to buy or rent an oxygen concentrator that meets all your supplementary oxygen needs. Our technical support team is available 24/7 to help you in any way they can! Call us at 1-800-375-6060. www.traveloxygen.com