Oxygen FAQ

Up to date, expert answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about oxygen supply systems, respiratory care and pulse oximetry written by OCC & collaborators.

What are the noteworthy capabilities and limitations of portable oxygen concentrators?

  • Most portable oxygen concentrators use pressure swing adsorption to intake room air and output ~93-96% oxygen
  • Most concentrators produce oxygen at 5 or 10LPM max, and at low pressure (this means far less than the 50psi/4bar needed to run HFNC, and most ventilators and NIPPV devices)
  • There are a few portable devices capable of higher flow / high pressure output (e.g. 15-30LPM, or 50psi)
  • Make sure the FiO2 is adequate (>~82-90%) at the max flow rate, as many concentrators make claims of high flows but deliver limited FiO2 (and thus limited benefit) at those flow rates. 
  • Performance of concentrators may vary by manufacturer in hot and humid environments (Peel et al, Anaesthesia, 2013)
  • Zeolite does not last forever – needs to be replaced around 25,000 hours, though may be considerably less depending on use, maintenance and humidity
  • While they can run continuously for long periods of time (months, years) they do require routine maintenance
  • When run beyond max flow (flowmeter opened all the way), this can cause premature failure due to excess moisture building up in the sieve bed


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