Oxygen Concentrators vs. CPAP Machines: Which is Right for You?

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Oxygen concentrators and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are commonly used as oxygen therapies by patients every day. While they do have similarities, these therapies provide very different functions that address different needs in patients. Before purchasing an oxygen concentrator or CPAP machine, consult with your doctor about whether you need purified supplemental oxygen, increased air pressure, or even both.

What are Oxygen Concentrators and CPAP Machines?

In order to understand the differences and similarities between oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines, it is necessary to learn about the purpose and function of each therapy.

Oxygen Concentrators

An oxygen concentrator draws in air and filters out nitrogen in order to deliver pressurized and a purified oxygen level of over 90% to the user through a mask or nasal tubing system. This oxygen therapy is particularly helpful for patients who require supplemental oxygen to what is available in ambient air, such as people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, or another respiratory condition where a patient’s lungs cannot provide adequate oxygen from exclusively the outside air. Oxygen concentrators offer continuous flow and pulse flow, which is activated when the user inhales. While stationary oxygen concentrators are traditionally used in the home, portable oxygen concentrators have grown in popularity to suit more active and independent lifestyles.

CPAP Machines

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are a common treatment for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where patients experience obstructed or restricted breathing for periods of ten seconds or longer during sleep. CPAP machines assist with regulating normal, easy breathing during sleep by increasing the air pressure in a patient’s throat to prevent the airway from collapsing when inhaling a constant stream of gentle air through a facial mask. There are a variety of features that add to the convenience of CPAP machines such as portable travel-sized versions, altitude adjustment, built-in humidifiers and more.

What is the Main Difference Between an Oxygen Concentrator and a CPAP Machine?

The two main differences between oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines are the concentration of oxygen in the air flow and the amount of pressure that flows through the tubing. While the primary job of oxygen concentrators is to increase the amount of purified oxygen in the surrounding air, CPAP machines solely focus on delivering a higher pressure of air, not an increased oxygen purity level. On the flip side, oxygen concentrators do not provide a high enough pressure to keep the throat and airway open for patients who suffer from sleep apnea.

To put it plainly, oxygen concentrators are for patients who need supplemental purified oxygen, like patients who have COPD or other respiratory conditions. CPAP therapy patients, who often suffer from sleep apnea, do not require this supplemental purified oxygen, and oxygen concentrators are not an appropriate replacement or substitute for CPAP therapy.

Can You Use Oxygen Concentrators and CPAP Machines at the Same Time?

Oxygen concentrators and CPAP machines can be used together to treat certain conditions such as those who suffer from both a pulmonary disease like COPD in addition to having sleep apnea. In this case, it may be necessary to have a higher level of purified oxygen flowing in the tubing of your CPAP machine. Thus, the goals of increasing the level of purified oxygen that is inhaled as well as generating a high enough pressure to keep the throat and airway open can simultaneously be achieved.

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