Recent heightened concern about the costs of medical care has stimulated research and development in devices and schemes for saving costs while retaining quality of care. Consistent with that concern is the fact that standard steady-flow oxygen delivery is so wasteful. Almost its entire benefit occurs at the very beginning of inspiration. We compared the efficacy of nasal oxygen delivery via a new demand oxygen delivery system (DODS) with the standard steady-flow (SF) method. The DODS incorporates a valve and sensor interposed between the oxygen reservoir and the patient, which meters oxygen to the patient only during early inspiration. Twelve COPD subjects with hypoxemia at rest received oxygen at flow settings of 1 to 4 L/min via SF and at various breath interval settings via the DODS method, calculated to match the above spectrum of the SF. We measured oxygen delivery using an ear oximeter. The results indicate that significantly less oxygen was required to provide equivalent saturations using the DODS compared with the SF method (p less than .001). The mean comparative savings in oxygen is better than seven to one favoring the DODS over the SF method. Further study is warranted, since the widespread use of such a device could result in substantial cost saving while increasing the range of portable oxygen delivery.