Deciding on an oxygen therapy system can be straightforward. This article presents the essentials of different types of oxygen therapy—from the portable convenience of compressed gas systems to the treatment of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  You’ll find focused insights here to identify which option best aligns with your healthcare needs.


Key Takeaways

  • Oxygen therapy helps patients with respiratory conditions maintain healthy blood oxygen levels which could help prevent organ damage, and potentially improve quality of life2.
  • Several methods of delivering oxygen, such as nasal cannulas and masks, are each suited for different conditions, and technological systems like oxygen concentrators and hyperbaric oxygen therapy offer advanced options for those requiring supplemental oxygen.
  • While oxygen therapy presents numerous health benefits, it also has potential side effects. It requires careful monitoring of blood oxygen levels, adherence to safety guidelines, and considerations for the right equipment based on individual conditions and lifestyles.


Understanding Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy offers vital support for those striving for optimal blood oxygen levels, ensuring a healthier life. This medical treatment provides the body with the essential oxygen it may not be getting from natural air. Why is this important? Knowing how much oxygen is necessary for healthy blood oxygen levels, typically 95% or higher, is vital for efficient cellular energy production1.


This therapy is a beacon of hope for many, preventing potential organ damage and ensuring a healthier life.


Types of Oxygen Therapy Systems

Various oxygen therapy systems are tailored to meet the specific needs and circumstances of those who require them. These systems are distinct in their features and intended uses, accommodating diverse patient conditions and settings. The commonly recognized types of oxygen therapy include:

  • Systems that use compressed gas
  • Those utilizing liquid oxygen
  • Oxygen concentrators
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy setups


These choices reflect the array of individual requirements.


Exploring each system will provide an in-depth look at its distinctive characteristics and how it serves patients.


Compressed Gas Systems

When you think of oxygen therapy, the image of a high-pressure tank filled with concentrated oxygen might come to mind. These tanks, known as compressed gas systems, are standard in oxygen therapy. A significant benefit is their portability, enabling freedom and mobility. These systems free patients from the limitations of a stationary unit, allowing them to move freely inside and outside their homes.


These systems offer significant benefits. They do not require electricity, making them invaluable during power outages. However, remember that these tanks require periodic refills as they run out of oxygen. Safety-wise, they should always be maintained upright to reduce the risk of tipping, utilizing cylinder stands where necessary.


Liquid Oxygen Systems

Liquid oxygen systems could be the answer for those seeking a compact and cost-effective oxygen therapy system. These systems:

  • Store oxygen in a liquid state at very low temperatures
  • Convert the liquid oxygen to a gaseous, breathable form as it warms up
  • Store oxygen more compactly than in the gas form
  • Offer both stationary and portable options that do not require electricity
  • Require less frequent refills


Liquid oxygen systems provide the convenience and flexibility needed for oxygen therapy, ensuring a reliable oxygen supply. However, not all patients may find liquid oxygen systems the best fit. Those with precise requirements for oxygen flow rates or concentrations might find other systems more suitable. Despite this, enhancing the portability of these systems involves the option of portable units that can be refilled from a main home unit, allowing for several hours of mobility without the need for frequent refilling.


Oxygen Concentrators

Consider oxygen concentrators as crucial sources of purified air. These devices filter and concentrate room air, delivering nearly 100% pure oxygen, free of nitrogen and other impurities. They come in two types: portable and stationary. As their name suggests, portable oxygen concentrators are small and lightweight. They run on rechargeable batteries and deliver oxygen in pulse doses based on the user’s breathing rate.


On the other hand, stationary oxygen concentrators are larger units intended for home use, providing a constant flow of oxygen rather than pulse doses. One of the main benefits of oxygen concentrators is their cost-effectiveness. They eliminate the need for tank refills, doing away with related recurring costs and logistical challenges. Their design facilitates quiet operation with a user-friendly interface, making them suitable for home use.


Remember, these devices require monthly air filter replacements to maintain clean air delivery and optimal functioning.


Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) stands out for its innovative approach to treatment. In this process, individuals breathe pure oxygen in a pressurized room or chamber, where the air pressure increases to three or four times the normal air pressure levels. 


Medical professionals commonly use this system to treat various conditions, from wounds and serious infections to air bubbles in blood vessels. 


Plus by APN offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of our innovative mental health treatments. We base eligibility for treatment on each client’s individual needs and the latest scientific research. The team at Plus by APN guides patients through their mental health treatment journey, focusing on comprehensive well-being solutions that extend beyond traditional medication-based approaches. Find HBOT in our Dallas location and more!


Oxygen Delivery Methods

Having explored the types of oxygen therapy systems, the next step is to examine the various methods that deliver life-sustaining oxygen. Each method is suited for different patient needs and conditions. Some common methods include:

  • Nasal cannulas
  • Simple face masks
  • Venturi masks
  • Non-rebreather masks


Nasal cannulas are flexible tubes with prongs for low-flow oxygen delivery. In contrast, high-flow nasal cannulas can deliver much higher oxygen volumes and provide warm, humidified air to prevent nasal dryness. 


On the other hand, medical professionals commonly use simple oxygen face masks for short-term therapy or emergencies, while Venturi masks offer controlled oxygen concentrations for precise therapy. For critical conditions requiring high oxygen concentrations, medical professionals use non-rebreather masks with a reservoir bag to ensure a higher oxygen intake.


The choice of device depends on the patient’s condition and environment. Some settings may require continual or emergency oxygenation, either in a hospital or at the patient’s home. 


Oxygen delivery devices must be selected carefully to prevent low oxygen levels (hypoxemia), with attention to avoiding too high oxygen levels (hyper-oxygenation) that can cause complications. The devices fall into two categories: low-flow systems, commonly used in home settings, and high-flow systems, which require professional healthcare providers like respiratory therapists for application.


Conditions Requiring Oxygen Therapy

While beneficial, healthcare providers typically prescribe oxygen therapy for a multitude of conditions, including

  • Chronic lung diseases
  • Recovery from surgery
  • Medical conditions such as altitude sickness, asthma, bronchitis, COPD, COVID-19, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, lung cancer, and pneumonia


People living or traveling to high altitudes and patients with pneumonia or severe respiratory symptoms from COVID-19 may also need supplemental oxygen to handle the reduced oxygen levels. Acute conditions such as severe asthma attacks, late-stage heart failure, cystic fibrosis, sleep apnea, and insufficient blood oxygen levels can often require the assistance of oxygen therapy.


While oxygen therapy may benefit the conditions above, patients and their healthcare providers should consider the most current research and any potential side effects. While there are some FDA-approved applications for oxygen therapy, many conditions may fall under “off-label” use.


Benefits of Oxygen Therapy

Aside from being a lifeline for those with specific medical conditions, oxygen therapy presents many benefits. Long-term oxygen therapy benefits patients with chronic conditions as it helps maintain normal organ function, particularly in the lungs and heart. This can increase survival rates and improve overall quality of life. 


For individuals with respiratory conditions like COPD, supplemental oxygen significantly improves quality of life by relieving symptoms including shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness, promoting a more active lifestyle.


Choosing the Right Oxygen Equipment

The process of selecting the right oxygen equipment is complex. It involves considering a multitude of factors, including:

  • Required oxygen amount
  •  Type of respiratory disease
  • Patient age
  • Environment (home or hospital)
  • Considerations for artificial airways
  • Humidity needs
  • Patient compliance for effective and accurate oxygen delivery


Healthcare providers should work with their patients to  choose equipment that accommodates the patient’s lifestyle and doesn’t require significant alterations to daily activities.


When considering home oxygen concentrators, individuals should evaluate their ease of mobility within the home, especially when the unit needs to be moved frequently. Size and portability are crucial for oxygen concentrators, particularly if space is limited or the device will be used in different rooms. 


Monitoring Blood Oxygen Levels

In addition to selecting the appropriate oxygen therapy system and equipment, effective oxygen therapy also necessitates monitoring blood oxygen levels. This monitoring indicates the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood, essential for cell replacement, energy provision, and immune system support. 


Healthcare providers measure blood oxygen levels through an arterial blood gas test or pulse oximetry, with the arterial blood gas test providing detailed readings on oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pH balance and pulse oximetry providing quick SpO2 and heart rate readings. Pulse oximeters gauge blood oxygen saturation by transmitting light beams through the skin to measure light absorption, often at the fingertip. 


However, it’s essential to note that inaccurate readings from pulse oximeters can occur due to factors such as

  • Skin pigmentation
  • Skin temperature
  • Fingernail polish
  • Tobacco use


Individuals can use pulse oximeters at home to monitor their blood oxygen levels regularly. They can also be attached to the toe, earlobe, or nose. Still, proper usage and result interpretation under a healthcare provider’s guidance are crucial.



Oxygen therapy acts as a lifeline for individuals with various respiratory conditions. The systems, ranging from compressed gas and liquid oxygen systems to oxygen concentrators and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cater to diverse patient needs. 


While it’s crucial to consider factors like the required oxygen amount, patient lifestyle, device weight and portability, and the long-term budget impact when choosing equipment, the safety considerations and guidelines should never be overlooked. 


Regularly monitoring blood oxygen levels using pulse oximeters or an arterial blood gas test can help ensure safety and efficacy during oxygen therapy. Remember, oxygen therapy is more than a treatment; it’s a commitment to enhanced well-being and a healthier life.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of oxygen therapy are there?

Oxygen therapy can be categorized into three distinct systems: compressed gas, portable oxygen concentrators, and liquid oxygen.


What are the modes of oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy can be delivered through a cannula, face mask, or tracheotomy tube, depending on the medical condition and oxygen needs. Humidification is necessary for all high-flow systems.


Is supplemental oxygen the same as oxygen therapy?

Yes, supplemental oxygen is the same as oxygen therapy. The terms are interchangeable and describe a means of providing additional oxygen to help people with lung diseases or breathing problems function effectively.


What is oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy is an essential medical procedure designed to deliver vital oxygen to the body, particularly for those suffering from respiratory illnesses. This treatment ensures that blood oxygen levels remain healthy, safeguarding organs from harm.