What is the Difference between Pulse Flow and Continuous Flow Oxygen Concentrators?

Oxygen Concentrators typically provide oxygen, either by pulse or continuous flow. But what does that mean?


Continuous Flow Oxygen

Continuous Flow Oxygen Concentrators are typically used in a stationary home setting. The concentrators deliver a constant, steady flow or stream of oxygen while being plugged into your home power source. Oxygen flows regardless if you are inhaling or exhaling. There are a few Portable Oxygen Concentrators on the market that do offer a continuous flow setting. However these units are typically larger and do not last very long when using the battery operated mode.

Continuous flow concentrators can be used with a CPAP or BiPAP during sleep if needed.

Pulse Flow Oxygen

Portable Oxygen Concentrators with a pulse flow setting are designed to work on a pulse method. They typically work one of two ways.

Some Portable Oxygen Concentrators provide a bolus or burst of oxygen when you inhale or when a breath is detected. As you are exhaling the oxygen stops flowing. Then as you inhale, the oxygen is released again. The oxygen flows “on-demand” or in other words, when you take a breath in. This method conserves oxygen and helps the batteries in portable units last longer.


The other method provides oxygen during a set time. Most people take a breath between 12-20 times per minute. There are some portable concentrators that are programmed to release the oxygen every few seconds whether you are inhaling or not. It mimics a normal breath pattern. This method conserves oxygen but will also delivery an appropriate amount of oxygen for most users in order to keep their oxygen saturation levels up.


Speak with your physician when trying to determine what type of oxygen concentrator would be best for you.

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