What is the Difference Between a Ventilator and an Oxygen Concentrator?

What is the Difference Between a Ventilator and an Oxygen Concentrator?

To recognize the differences, we will first discuss what each of these devices is used for and then how each works.

Oxygen Concentrator:

An Oxygen Concentrator is a medical device used by patients who suffer from breathing disabilities like severe chronic hypoxemia, pulmonary edema, cystic fibrosis (CF), and more, to provide unlimited and purified oxygen. It works to separate the pure oxygen from the other gases present in the air, such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide so that the improved oxygen can be delivered to the patient’s lungs via a cannula or a face mask. The other gases are then simply returned to the environment.

Powered by an inbuilt battery which, most often than not, needs to be recharged by the user; a stable power source is needed. There are no tricky mechanics the user needs to be aware of, other than the basics on how to use it with care. They can either be portable, in the form of backpacks or trolleys or completely stationary. The stationery ones are an ideal choice for a consistent oxygen supply.

Oxygen Concentrators provide concentrated or purified oxygen to the patient, as long as the device is connected to a power source or has a charged battery. They are generally quite simple to operate. Being connected to a power supply makes the stationery oxygen concentrators an ideal choice for a consistent Oxygen supply. Consistent Oxygen supply is much needed for covid patients. You can buy or find an oxygen concentrator to rent pretty much everywhere these days. Now Covid patients are in greatest need of these oxygen concentrators.


Ventilators in their basic functionalities recreate the process of breathing by pumping in the air for the patient. They make it easy for patients to breathe and are mostly used in medical settings. The most common illnesses for which people use ventilators are sepsis, pneumonia, stroke, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, and even brain trauma. With the rise of COVID-19 cases around the globe, hospitals and ambulances need ventilators more than ever. They are also used by patients undergoing medical procedures or surgeries where the general anesthesia makes the individual incapable of breathing on their own. They can be found in hospitals, ambulances, and even at homes, for people who may need its services 24/7.

Ventilators are only used in life-threatening conditions, unlike oxygen generators. There are also various forms of ventilators (invasive and non-invasive), like face mask ventilators, tracheostomy ventilators, mechanical ventilators, and more. While this medical device saves millions of lives, it does cause certain issues when used in the long run. These include; lung damage, airway blockage and obstruction, atelectasis and muscle weakness, and even delirium.

Patients who have been using ventilators for a while are being weaned off of the device in a gradual process, to make the recovery smoother and stress-free. So…

Is An Oxygen Concentrator the Same as Ventilator?

The simple answer is, no, they are not the same.

To further understand the distinction, we need to discern how each of these medical technologies works themselves and inside of the human body.

How Does A Ventilator Work?

When the airways in the lungs of the human body are constricted or inflamed due to viruses or pneumonia, the oxygen is not efficiently delivered into the lungs and to the rest of the body. This makes it difficult for the lungs to function on their own. And, this is where ventilators help tremendously.

Ventilators are like external lungs that aid in the act of breathing. They work in two main ways:

1) Positive Pressure Ventilation:

This is where a tube is directly inserted into the patient’s lungs and forces air into them. There is a humidifier that warms the air to suit the average human body temperature, to make the inhalation as comfortable as possible. The mechanical ventilator sends air through a nasogastric tube, which leads into the nose and stomach.

2) Negative Pressure Ventilation

In negative pressure ventilation, pressure is applied onto the patient’s torso to cause the chest to naturally rise and expand, to enable the lungs to breathe easily by forcing the air into them. However, it must be noted that Negative Pressure Ventilators are rarely used today.

Ventilation is not as simple as using an oxygen concentrator and there are Invasive and Non-invasive Ventilation methods as well

Invasive Methods

The invasive ones will require a tube to be inserted into the individual’s mouth and further down into their lungs, as discussed earlier. The other end of the tube is in charge of pumping in pressurized air.

Non-invasive Methods

The most common and non-invasive technique that most people are familiar with is the face mask that is attached to the face. Air is then pressured inside of the patient’s nostrils, all the way into their lungs.

How Do Oxygen Concentrators Work?

The medical equipment inside of the concentrator is technologically intricate. The Oxygen Concentrator works by supplying purified oxygen to the patient with two different settings; ‘Pulse Dose’ and ‘Continuous Flow’. It includes a cabinet inside, which contains the filters and the compressors. The air enters through the “air intake vent”. Pure oxygen is extracted for the user through a complex filtration process, which occurs in the molecular sieve bed. This extracts dirt, bacteria, and filters the incoming air to provide the patient with purified Oxygen.

A reservoir of oxygen is inside of the machine, which is ready for whenever the individual breathes in. There are in-built sensors too that detect when the next breath is about to be taken in. Then it simply sends out a “puff” of oxygen for the user to take in. It is used by people whose respiratory systems have difficulties in providing adequate oxygen to the body.

Here are where the differences lie between the two devices:

Ventilator Oxygen Concentrator
Ventilators aid in the ‘act’ of breathing Oxygen Concentrators enable ‘easier’ breathing
Ventilators ‘force’ air into the lungs Oxygen Concentrators ‘release’ oxygen into the lungs
Used commonly in surgeries Not used in surgeries
Includes Invasive types Non-invasive
Aids in the Ventilation Process(Molecular exchange of gases in the body) Aids in the Oxygenation Process(Molecular absorbance of oxygen)
Non-portable Portable


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