Q: My doctor suggested that I use an oxygen-conserving device with my home oxygen equipment. The prices vary widely. Are they all the same? How do I know which one to buy?

A: The performance of oxygen-conserving devices is highly variable, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Investigators recruited 13 individuals with COPD to test four different devices.

They found that some devices worked better at rest than during exercise, and some worked poorly in both cases. A poorly performing device is of little or no benefit and, in some cases, may contribute to limitations in your ability to exercise.

Because these devices can be unpredictable in terms of the amount of oxygen they deliver, it's important to test a device before committing to it. Most oxygen-supply firms have a portable oximeter that a technician can bring to your house. Try the oxygen-conserving device with the oximeter attached to your finger or ear while you are at rest and also while walking to see if the device is delivering adequate oxygen to your system.

If the device isn't delivering the right amount of oxygen, tell your doctor. He or she can either increase the amount of oxygen delivered or have you try another device.

Publication Review By: Peter B. Terry, M.D., M.A.

Published: 09 Aug 2011

Last Modified: 24 Aug 2011