“WHAT” and “WHY” of medical oxygen concentrator needs and supply

Mobile oxygen concentrator
Third generation mobile oxygen machine for up to 7 lpm pulsed flow and up to 7 hour battery

Like all medical equipment the needs of the patient for medical oxygen must be matched with the equipment. Oxygen concentrators are the best way to address almost all medical oxygen needs.

Drop in oxygen level due to sleep apnea caused by the interrupted or obstructed breathing and snoring normally only requires a Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) machine like CPAP, APAP or BiPAP to prevent the symptoms.

Please contact us for advice on how to cost-effectively match your oxygen needs to the right equipment. 

High end oxygen equipment can be expensive, whilst you might only need a smaller and more compact oxygen machine for your need or another model which can be more affordable.

What do you need to know about medical oxygen supply and needs before committing to buy?

Medical oxygen can be a critical component of a lifesaving therapy for hypoxia patients – that is persons with low oxygen saturation.  Covid-19 life threatening symptoms amply demonstrated this.

Low oxygen saturation can be caused by several health conditions. 

Who should get Oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy is prescribed for people who can’t get enough oxygen on their own from the about 20% oxygen in air. This is often because of lung conditions that prevent the lungs from absorbing oxygen.  Damaged lungs, due to active or previous viral or bacterial lung infection (pneumonia) is only one of the causes. 

Oxygen therapy is prescribed for people who can’t get enough oxygen on their own. This is often because of lung conditions that prevents the lungs from absorbing oxygen, including:

What is COPD and what are the main causes?

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is one of the reasons why persons need extra oxygen.  COPD has the effect of constriction of the airways and difficulty or discomfort in breathing.

Exposure to irritants over time can damage your lungs and airways leading to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which also includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The main cause of COPD is smoking, but non-smokers can get COPD too.

For medium to long term use, an Oxygen Concentrator which effectively is a micro oxygen factory, is the best solution.  It eliminates the need for heavy cylinders and the danger of getting stuck without oxygen due to empty cylinders.  Patients really needing oxygen are very often not able to get cylinders refilled and the long term cost of refilling is high.  Oxygen concentrators only need an electrical power source to concentrate the unlimited free supply of available 20% oxygen in air to provide medical grade oxygen with concentration of more than 90%. 

How does an oxygen concentrator work technically?

An Oxygen Concentrator is a device that concentrates the oxygen from ambient air  by selectively removing and releasing nitrogen to deliver oxygen-enriched medical gas which is safe for breathing.   

Most Oxygen Concentrators are using Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA), which uses multiple molecular sieves consisting of zeolite minerals.  Air under pressure using a compressor combined with rapid pressure swing adsorption allow the zeolite in the sieves to adsorb and release atmospheric nitrogen.  Functionally it can be described as a nitrogen scrubber allowing other atmospheric gases to pass through.  Oxygen is then the primary gas remaining. For small to mid-scale oxygen generation,  PSA is a reliable and economical technique to apply.

What do you need to consider when looking to purchase or rent an Oxygen Concentrator?

When selecting an Oxygen concentrator make sure that it delivers 90% or more oxygen at the doctor’s prescribed flow.  Many suppliers like to state or emphasize higher flows, conveniently and misleadingly neglecting to say that at these higher flows the oxygen concentration is much lower.  These machines are sometimes described as ‘household oxygen concentrators.  Combining a medical Oxygen Concentrator with CPAP machine delivering the oxygen produced inside the mask close to the nose and mouth not only increases the part of oxygen produced inhaled, but also enables slightly added capacity of the lungs to absorb oxygen due to increase in lung capacity and surface area.

Battery backup and portable oxygen concentrators with batteries

The more medical oxygen is produced, the higher the power requirement for oxygen concentrator is.

For high flow 90% oxygen, quite large batteries are required to maintain oxygen flow during power interruptions such as load shedding. This typically is what can be provided from large and heavy solar batteries.

The power requirement can be significantly reduced by adding “Pulsed Flow” capability, where oxygen is only released during inhale.  At least half of oxygen produced is lost during exhaling with a constant flow oxygen concentrator.  To deliver pulsed flow the oxygen concentrator requires added sensors to detect and be able to coordinate release of the oxygen produced only during inhaling.

Portable oxygen concentrators typically have Li-ion batteries and can be powered from vehicles’ cigarette plug outputs also to provide power while driving or to recharge the battery.  Whilst most first-generation concentrators typically could provide 1 liter per minute (lpm) for one hour, third generation oxygen machines can at higher price provide oxygen for up to 7 hours with pulsed flow, or up to 7 lpm if the time required is shorter.

What about medical aid funding?

Medical aids are quite strict in their requirements for funding oxygen machines.  Very few will approve use of an oxygen machine without a doctor’s or specialist’s prescription accompanied by pathological blood gas report.

Medical aid members sometimes experience or perceive this as medical aids trying to use almost any excuse not to help pay for patients that really need medical oxygen to have a fair quality of life.  Sometimes funds at first just reject medical aid claims – quite often for invalid reasons e.g.  claiming technical problems with invoices which does not exist.  In many cases these claims must be resubmitted pointing out the administration personnel in claims offices mistakes.  It often feels like a ‘war of attrition’.  However, if there is a valid medical reason to have a machine and the specific fund’s plan which you pay for allows it, you should not give up.  Sometimes adding doctor’s written motivation helps.

Note:  Medical aids in general get very bad reviews.  At HelloPeter at date of this blog only two medical aids had trustindex above 50%

You can read more about oxygen needs at reputable sources like:

Oxygen concentrator. Always get enough oxygen
Get enough oxygen for better quality of life


You can read more about oxygen needs at reputable sources like:
  1. Oxygen Therapy | American Lung Association 
  2. Oxygen Therapy  – Healthline
  3. COPD: Stages, Causes, Treatment, and More – Healthline
  4. COPD  (WHO)
  5. COPD – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
  6. What is COPD?
  7. COPD    (Cleveland Clinic)

Berien CPAP is moving to the The Local Choice Pharmacy MedValue Centre Corner of Zambezi drive and Kameeldrift dr, (Just off the Zambezi offramp off the N1 highway)

**NOTE that in order to get to Berien CPAP you need to make use of the Pharmacy entrance**