All you need to know about oxygen cylinders and concentrators

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Oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators are medical devices that offer oxygen therapy to patients unable to get enough oxygen into their bodies on their own. Tanks and concentrators specifically, are uniquely designed to deliver oxygen to patients at home, on the go, or who are being transferred between medical sites….

Oxygen tanks or oxygen cylinders are metal tanks containing pressurized oxygen. To use these tanks, a line of tubing is connected to the tank at one end and then to a nasal cannula or oxygen mask at the other. This allows the oxygen in the tank to be delivered directly into the patient’s nose. Personal oxygen tanks are typically mounted on a trolley or other wheel-based device that allows them to be easily transported by the patient or a caregiver. 

Pros

  • No power required. One of the most distinct advantages of oxygen tanks is that they take advantage of the pressurized oxygen within them to operate. 
  • Silent. Since oxygen tanks are simply delivering their contents at a specified rate, there are no beeps or loud sounds associated with using them. 
  • Lower initial cost. Oxygen tanks are the traditional form of personal oxygen, and as such, they are often the most inexpensive.

Cons

  • Heavy: One of the most commonly noted disadvantages of oxygen tanks is their weight and portability. This means that lifting the tank can be challenging due to the weight of the device.
  • Limited to their contents: Oxygen tanks only contain a limited amount of oxygen, and once the tank has been depleted, it has to be refilled or replaced with a new tank. 
  • Greater cost over time: Because oxygen tanks need to be refilled or replaced frequently, their initial low price adds up over time to make their cost higher long-term. 

Oxygen concentrators dispense oxygen in almost exactly the same way that oxygen tanks do, delivering oxygen directly to the patient via the same nasal cannula or oxygen masks. However, where oxygen tanks contain a fixed amount of pressurized oxygen, concentrators collect oxygen from the surrounding air, concentrate it, and then deliver it to the patient, removing the need for replacement or refilling. 

Pros

  • Unlimited oxygen. The ability of oxygen concentrators to continuously draw in and treat air ensures that, unlike oxygen tanks, the concentrator will never run out of oxygen. 
  • Lightweight. They are notably lighter and more portable than most oxygen tanks. Because they do not rely on pressurized oxygen, concentrators do not require a dense metal tank. 

Cons

  • Batteries required: Because they do not use pressurized oxygen within a tank, oxygen concentrators must rely on battery or electric power to perform their air filtering and oxygen flow. 
  • Noisy. Oxygen concentrators collect oxygen from the air and then filter and compress it for the user. This process can often be noisy, due to the various components at work. 
  • Expensive. Because of the complex mechanisms at work, oxygen concentrators are often quite expensive up-front. 

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