Do You Need an Oxygen Concentrator or vs. CPAP Machine?

Do you struggle with breathing? For those who have sleep apnea, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, or other respiratory conditions, oxygen therapies are truly a daily life saver. Your doctor may recommend an oxygen concentrator or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to regulate your breathing. Learn about the differences between oxygen concentrators and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines to discover which oxygen therapy is right for you.

Oxygen Concentrator vs. CPAP Machine

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.

What is an Oxygen Concentrator?

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.

Types of Oxygen Concentrators

  • Home oxygen concentrators provide continuous flow oxygen to patients. Though they are mostly stationary units, home oxygen concentrators may come with casters, making them easy to move around. These units can deliver up to 10 liters of supplemental oxygen per minute, making them ideal for someone with severe respiratory issues.
  • Portable oxygen concentrators give patients the freedom to take their oxygen therapy on the go. These units are designed for travel, so they are typically smaller and more compact than home oxygen concentrators. Many come with carrying cases. Most portable concentrators deliver oxygen in pulse dose settings, though some units may also offer a continuous flow mode.

What is a CPAP Machine?

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.

Types of CPAP Machines

  • Standard CPAP machines provide one, fixed pressure setting to the patient’s airway. CPAP machines may offer various comfort settings, such as optional humidifiers, to further improve the therapy experience.
  • Auto CPAP machines deliver air pressure within a range of pressure settings. Airway obstructions can be worsened due to congestion, sleeping position, weight gain and other factors. These units automatically adjust the air pressure provided to the patient to accommodate for these changes.
  • BiPAP machines are typically reserved for more severe cases of sleep apnea, or for patients with additional health complications. These machines use two separate air pressure settings – one for inhalation, and one for exhalation – to provide appropriate therapy. 
  • Travel CPAP machines are lighter and more compact for staying CPAP compliant while traveling. Travel CPAP machines offer many of the same features as home units and are often preferred by patients because of their versatility.

The Difference Between Oxygen Concentrators and CPAP Machines


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 are 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.

Features to Consider When Buying an Oxygen Concentrator

When determining the ideal machine for your specific needs, consider these points:

  1. How much space is there? More output from a larger machine (which may be medically required) comes at the expense of mobility. Some oxygen concentrators weigh 20 pounds or more, while other models only weigh 2 to 3 pounds. In general, pulse flow alternatives weigh extremely little compared to continuous flow models, which are rather hefty.
  2. How long is the battery good for? Having a backup battery on hand is essential, but to prevent battery drain, use the wall outlet as frequently as you can.
  3. Just how loud is it? A model in the 35-39dB range is quite quiet if you are noise-sensitive or have a bedmate who is. Nevertheless, most high-quality units are hardly detectable.
  4. Does it offer a continuous flow or a pulse dose? You will either require pulse dosage (which monitors breathing and distributes oxygen just when you inhale) or continuous flow, depending on the course of therapy that your care manager recommends (which supplies oxygen continuously, regardless of breathing).
  5. The oxygen concentrator is mobile, right? What is its weight? If you have an active lifestyle, you’ll want to take use of it rather of staying at home merely to use the outlets. A portable oxygen concentrator offers several benefits over a home oxygen unit because of this. Weight has a big impact on how portable something is. While smaller concentrators are simpler to carry, heavier portable concentrators often have longer battery lives. To increase mobility, several portable concentrators include a cart or a pouch that you may sling over your shoulder.

Key Features to Consider When Buying a CPAP Machine

Consider the following while looking for a new CPAP:

  1. Is this model well-regarded? Be sure the CPAP machine you’re considering has a reputation for dependability and performance because it’s a significant purchase.
  2. How practical is a CPAP? Is there a battery backup available? Is it light enough to make traveling simple? How well does the mask fit, and how simple is it to maintain?
  3. How quiet is the device? The decibel number is a fantastic place to start, but it’s also important to take into account the tone or frequency of exhaling noise. A device that is quieter will almost always be more enjoyable to use than one that makes a lot of mechanical noises.

Can You Use an Oxygen Concentrator and CPAP Machine Simultaneously?

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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