PB ushers rebirth of liquid O2

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

YARMOUTH, Maine - Three years ago, the prospects for the long-term viability for liquid oxygen were so bleak that the three major vendors in the category - Puritan Bennet, Caire and Penox - could hear the ominous footsteps of the bellringer climbing to ring the death knell of liquid oxygen.

"We were laughing then, wondering who would be the last of us to be standing," said Matt Malcolm, v.p. of sales at Penox. "Now it seems as the three of us will be."

The liquid oxygen market did not go down the drain, as many prognosticated at the time. Puritan Bennett's Helios resuscitated the modality. Today, by many accounts, the market is thriving, and PB's two major competitors are getting their feet wet with new liquid systems.

At the end of last year, Penox began shipping its Escort ultralightweight portable; the company says there are "many thousands" in the field today. Caire said it would start shipping its Spirit 300 this month.

Like Helios, the Penox and Caire ultralightweights weigh in at about 4 pounds, less than half the weight of their predecessors. Both can fill off other companies' reservoir systems. Packing 0.33 and 0.375 liters of oxygen respectively, the Spirit and the Escort will let users ambulate for seven hours or longer at 2 liters per minute.

Both run off electronic conserving devices where Helios runs a pneumatic device.

Caire has tracked an uptick in demand for liquid oxygen over the last several years. "The primary driving factor," said Caire's product and engineering manager, Roger Briese, "is the lightweight liquid portable."

In Luzerne, Pa., Wasserot's is pushing liquid oxygen more today than ever before, largely thanks to the availability of the ultralightweight, and believes the modality has a bright future.

"We find it more economical, which is probably heresy to some," said Sam Daniel, operations manager of Wasserott's Medical Supply. HME