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Continuous Flow Or Pulse, Which Is The Best Option In Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy » ProSalud

If you require oxygen therapy due to a lung disease, such as COPD, one of the main doubts that will arise when choosing a Portable oxygen concentrator is whether they require a continuous flow or pulse unit. Choosing the right one is key so that your treatment is efficient and you select the right oxygen generator.

Prescribed liters per minute

The first thing they should know is the liters per minute (LPM) prescribed by their doctors. Although oxygen is a gas, its flow rate is measured in LPM, since previously the only way to have oxygen therapy was through O tanks.2 liquid, which when exposed to ambient pressure became gaseous. This process does not happen with oxygen concentrators, but the unit of measurement is maintained.

The vast majority of people are prescribed two liters of oxygen per minute. It is important to note that your prescription may not tell you whether you need a pulse or continuous flow unit. It is also imperative to understand that liters per minute do not directly relate to the settings of all oxygen concentrators.

Most continuous flow or home units have exact LPM settings. However, most portable or pulse dose units will have a setting of 1 to 8. The amount of oxygen delivered at each setting will differ between each concentrator and brand. For example, if your oxygen therapy prescribes 2 liters per minute of oxygen and the concentrator you want to buy has 1-3 settings, there is a chance that it will not meet your exact needs, so you should look for another model.

Oxygen therapy » ProSalud

Pulse units

Pulse flow inhales or pulses air into your nasal passage, through a cannula, with each breath. This means that, with the pulse, oxygen is delivered every time they breathe. If the breathing rate increases, the oxygen concentrator will automatically react and release another pulse as needed.

The sophistication of pulse dose delivery is best described as drinking water through a straw; delivery is more controlled and individualized by need. In juxtaposition, a continuous flow machine is similar to drinking from a water fountain; delivery is less controlled and a lot can be wasted.

Units with pulse flow delivery systems tend to be more energy efficient due to the rest periods between each breath, which significantly increases the battery life of your unit, allowing you to enjoy solutions such as a Portable oxygen concentrator for longer. Due to the increased efficiency, units can be made much smaller to provide patients with more freedom and mobility.

Another difference between pulse supply and continuous flow is that the equipment that uses the first technology does not deliver exact LPM, as is often the case with continuous flow. Each model and brand has a specific configuration that seeks to adapt to the needs demanded in oxygen therapy and the real oxygen needs for each breath. You can check this in the manual of each device and ask your doctor which is the ideal model and in which configuration you should use it.

Is pulse flow right for you?

As we have mentioned, it is a decision you should make with your doctors. While pulse dosing works for many people, there are some medical conditions where oxygen therapy is not an option. If you need oxygen at night, many doctors will recommend a continuous flow machine for night use.

Although, many patients can still use a pulse dose machine during daylight hours, especially if it is a Portable oxygen concentrator which will allow them greater freedom of movement. The reason doctors lean toward continuous flow for sleep is that surface and mouth respirators may not activate the pulse sensor because the intensity drops while you sleep. If the pulse is not activated, some machines will sound an alarm causing patients to wake up frequently throughout the night.

Using an oxygen concentrator with pulse flow technology is a great solution for those with an active or constantly changing lifestyle. Whether you frequently go out on errands, exercise, travel, or even just enjoy a daily morning walk, Pulse Flow can adjust to your changing respiratory rates to ensure you always receive the oxygen therapy what do you need.

Continuous flow units

As we have mentioned, continuous flow is the most common type of delivery in oxygen therapy, where oxygen is continuously delivered at a constant, specified rate. If we go back to the fountain example, when you turn it on the water flows at a constant rate, say 1 LPM, although it is very unlikely that you will consume 1 full liter, so you will have wasted due to the constant supply state. All domestic or stationary concentrators and O tanks2 liquid operate in continuous flow

Is continuous flow right for you?

As in the previous case, it is important that you consult with your doctors. Although continuous flow machines work for most people at night, during the day they are only recommended if you lead a more relaxed lifestyle, since they are generally heavy equipment, if they use batteries they tend to run out quickly and the Tanks require continuous refilling.

Continuous flow units are often great solutions for people with sleep apnea or other conditions where you need portable oxygen at night. As we mentioned above, a continuous flow machine will not alarm you while you sleep if you breathe through your mouth or have shallow breathing.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal preference when selecting a pulse or continuous unit. There are solutions that offer both pulse and continuous flow oxygen delivery systems. If you are unsure which solution is right for you, we suggest you consult your doctors and discuss your lifestyle, prescriptions, and how you would ideally like to use oxygen.

The best device with pulse supply that they can use without their daily activities being seen is the Inogen One G3, allow you to adjust the oxygen flow according to your needs. Buy it in our online store.

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Yair Ramirez
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