Clinical Information

Clinical Information

All About Home Oxygen

DeVilbiss Australia reception area

The section tries to answer many of the most frequently asked questions relating to home oxygen delivery systems, and more especially to the most rapidly growing delivery methods, oxygen concentrators, but first let's look at oxygen itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.   What kind of diseases creates a need for Home Oxygen?
A.   Any disease that affects the heart or the lungs could eventually become severe enough to require use of oxygen in the home. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which usually is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is the biggest offender. Patients with cystic fibrosis, asthma, and those with congestive heart disorders would be other candidates. Patients with occupational diseases, such as asbestosis and “farmers lung” may require home oxygen therapy.

Q.   How do doctors determine if a patient needs home oxygen therapy?
A.   Usually this is determined by taking samples of arterial blood; this normally is a hospital procedure.

Q.   How long must patients use supplementary oxygen at home?
A.   Some people are given additional oxygen temporarily, while others require it on a long term basis. The doctor will determine how long a patient should receive oxygen, how much should be received, and whether it's delivered continuously or less than 24 hours a day.

Q.   Does oxygen help treat the disease?
A.   Not directly, but by increasing the amount of oxygen the patient inspires into the lungs, the lack of oxygen at the tissues or cells (called hypoxia) can be greatly improved. Supplementary oxygen relieves many of the adverse symptoms and greatly improves the overall quality of life for the patient.

Q.   How does a patient know if they are receiving enough oxygen?
A.   The purpose of oxygen is to help the patient feel better and do more without becoming fatigued. If symptoms such as headache, drowsiness, fatigue, or increased irritability persist, notify your doctor.

Q.   Can I become addicted to supplementary oxygen?
A.   Patients only receive the quantity of oxygen necessary to satisfy body needs. This is in no way addictive.

Q.   What are some noticeable changes one may see with the patients on supplementary oxygen?
A.   They will sleep better, be less irritable, remember better, have more energy and suffer fewer depressions. They tolerate exercise better and usually face fewer hospitalisation days. In general, these patients will live happier, more productive lives.

Q.   How will the doctor know when a patient doesn't need oxygen anymore?
A.   Once the condition exists, the need for oxygen to relieve symptoms usually remains. The physician may use several different methods such as blood tests, ear oximetry, or testing pulmonary functions to determine the patient's capability to oxygenate themselves properly.

Q.   How is oxygen administered?
A.   Oxygen therapy is generally prescribed by a specialist physician who will determine the appropriate delivery flow rate. There are various funding opportunities available which vary from state to state. Please ask your physician or local (DeVilbiss) representative for advice.

Q.   What is an oxygen concentrator?
A.   An oxygen concentrator is an electrically operated device that draws in room air, separates the oxygen from other gases in the air, and delivers the oxygen at high concentrations to the patients.

Q.   How does it do that?
A.   The air we breathe is made up of several different gases. The majority of air is made up of nitrogen, a gas that the body doesn't really use. Approximately 21 per cent of the air is oxygen. A very small amount (about one percent) is a mixture of lesser gases, such as argon and carbon dioxide. Air drawn into the concentrator passes through a molecular sieve, and just like a filter it lets some gases pass and traps others. In this way high concentration oxygen is available to the patient at the concentrator outlet.

Q.   What does the concentrator do with the gases it trapped?
A.   It returns these gases, including some oxygen, back into the room.

Q.   Does that leave the room with a less than normal amount of oxygen?
A.   One would think so, but this is not true regardless of whether a concentrator is operating in the room or not, the oxygen concentration in the room always remains at the normal amount, 21 per cent.

Q.   Then other people in the room will still be breathing normal amounts of oxygen?
A.   Correct. There is absolutely no need for concern about the remaining amount of oxygen in the room. It will always stay at 21 per cent, which is the normal oxygen level.

Q.   Will oxygen from a concentrator offer the same benefits as a cylinder?
A.   Yes. Medical studies have shown that oxygen concentration of 80 per cent or above are therapeutically equal to 100 per cent oxygen. The reason is that oxygen from any source is always mixed with some room air on each breath, when taken through a mask or nasal cannula.

Q.   If oxygen is taken from room air, what assurance would I have that the concentrated oxygen is clean?
A.   All DeVilbiss concentrators are equipped with a series of air filters. Initially, air enters the concentrator through dust filters. Air drawn into the units' compressor passes through additional filters. Then before the air enters the sieve beds to separate the gas molecules, it passes through a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air filter.) This traps bacteria size components in the air, so you're assured the oxygen coming from the outlet is sterile.

Q.   Are there any dangers in using a concentrator?
A.   There are always dangers in the presence of enriched oxygen. One should not smoke or have an open flame nearby. But compared to cylinders that are pressurized at 2000 Ibs/in2 and weigh approximately 16.3Kgs, concentrators are extremely safe, because they do not store oxygen under pressure.

Q.   Can a patient use a stove when receiving supplementary oxygen?
A. Electric stoves or microwave ovens offer no problem to the oxygen user (unless, of course, the patient is using a heart pacemaker that can be affected by a microwave unit). Using supplementary oxygen near an open flame, such as a gas stove, is not recommended.

Q.   Can I use electrical appliances (vacuum cleaner, etc.) when receiving oxygen?
A.   Electrical appliances can be used safely. Again the only concern is an open flame. Patients, for example, have been severely burned when smoking while receiving oxygen.

Q.   What if the doctor prescribes humidity?
A.   Some doctors will occasionally prescribe humidity. All DeVilbiss concentrators are designed for attachment of a humidifier at the outlet connection. Your technician will advise you.

Q.   Will the flow setting change from what I am now using an oxygen cylinder?
A.   No. The flow setting on a DeVilbiss concentrator will be the same as with an oxygen cylinder. Although it might feel softer it is not supported by the same high pressure as when delivered from a cylinder.

Q.   Will cylinder oxygen feel different to oxygen from a concentrator?
A.   When changing from cylinders to a concentrator initially some patients believe they are receiving less oxygen. This is not the case. Oxygen from a concentrator is delivered at lower pressures, but does provide the same concentration and flow.

Q.   I place the concentrator anywhere in my house?
A.   The (Devilbiss) technician will discuss with you the most appropriate location in your house.

Q.   I don't like to sit in just one place while receiving oxygen. How can I move around the house using a concentrator?
A.   DeVilbiss concentrators will still provide the prescribed flow rates and concentrations even with the addition of 30 foot oxygen tubing. Centralising the location of your concentrator and 9.2 Metres tubing provides you with mobility around the house.

Q.   I've been on cylinders and I always had to schedule my life around delivery schedules. Is that also true with concentrators?
A.   That's a major advantage of a concentrator. It will provide a continuous supply of oxygen if required. Once the unit is delivered and you're instructed in its operation there are no more routine deliveries. DeVilbiss personnel will call every three to four months to service and maintain the machine.

Q.   How would I know if something happens and the concentrator is not working?
A.   In case of a power cut, DeVilbiss concentrators will signal you with a battery operated audible alarm.

Q.   What do I do if an alarm sounds?
A.   Refer to your patient guide to identify the alarm and to determine proper action. Check to make certain the concentrator is properly plugged in; an alarm automatically sounds when an unplugged unit is turned on. If the machine continues to alarm contact DeVilbiss Healthcare.

Q.   How difficult is a concentrator to operate?
A.   Operation is simpler than a TV set. Once the flowmeter has been properly set during operation, it need not be reset with each use. The user simply turns the power switch on, and that's it.

Q.   But what must the patient do to service the concentrator?
A.   Very little. The humidifier, if used must be cleaned and refilled daily. Dust filters should be cleaned weekly, and the compressor filter is changed by DeVilbiss Healthcare when required. All filters are easy to get to and are simple to change.

Q.   How does a patient learn to properly use a concentrator?
A.   At the time the concentrator is delivered, a trained technician will thoroughly instruct the patient and the family in the operation and maintenance of the unit.

Q.   Who will pay for the electricity?
A.   Please ask your electricity supplier or DeVilbiss Healthcare representative for advice. The technician will provide you with further details.

Q.   Anything else I should know about concentrators?
A.   Over the past several years, use of oxygen concentrators for home oxygen therapy has increased dramatically. The main reasons: concentrators are far more convenient; they blend into home décor while eliminating frustrating repeat deliveries. They are easy to use and maintain, and are much less costly than cylinder oxygen for home use. Portable cylinders and the Pulse Dose conserver are available for ambulatory requirements. Ask your DeVilbiss Healthcare representatives for further details.