Many of our patients with lung disease require the use of supplemental oxygen to survive. The most common disease requiring this therapy is COPD, but others, including interstitial fibrosis, need long term oxygen therapy (LTOT). The goals of LTOT include the relief of shortness of breath, improvement of survival, allow for more physical activity, improve cognitive function, and promote better mobility outside of the home.
When home oxygen therapy was first developed, the patients were trapped in their homes attached to large oxygen tanks with no convenient means of portability. As time went on, newer methods of providing home oxygen came on the market, including liquid oxygen and oxygen concentrators which were able to extract concentrated oxygen from room air. The most recent advance is the use of a portable oxygen concentrator.
Despite these advances, a large number of patients are dissatisfied with equipment malfunctions, excessive weight of portable systems, short supply duration, and inadequate flow rates. The liquid systems had offered the best supply method, allowing for higher flow rates and self-filling of portable units. These systems were more costly and are now rarely used because of progressive reductions in reimbursement to durable medical equipment companies.
As a result of limitations on the portability and functionality of current systems, many patients do not use their oxygen therapy as needed for the above-mentioned benefits to occur. Blood oxygen levels must be kept within a normal range for a minimum of 18 hours a day to get survival benefits.