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Oxygen treatment increases the amount of
oxygen that flows into your lungs and bloodstream. If your COPD is very bad and
your blood oxygen levels are low, getting more oxygen can help you breathe
better and live longer.
There are several
ways to deliver the oxygen, including:
You don't have to stay at home or in a hospital to use
oxygen. Oxygen systems are portable. You can use them while you do your daily
Long-term oxygen treatment may improve
your quality of life. It can help you live longer when you have severe COPD and
low oxygen levels.
You may notice less shortness of breath and have more energy.
Long-term oxygen therapy is used for
COPD if you have low levels of oxygen in your blood (hypoxia). It is used
mostly to slow or prevent right-sided
heart failure. It can help you live longer.
Oxygen may be given in a hospital if you have a rapid, sometimes sudden,
increased shortness of breath (COPD exacerbation). Oxygen can also be
used at home if the oxygen level in your blood is too low for long
Long-term oxygen therapy should be used for at least 15
hours a day with as few interruptions as possible. Regular use can reduce the
risk of death from low oxygen levels.1 To get the most
benefit from oxygen, you use it 24 hours a day.
arterial blood gas test should be done first to see if
you need oxygen. You may need oxygen if:
Several studies show that using
oxygen at home for more than 15 hours a day increases quality of life and helps
people live longer when they have severe COPD and low blood levels of
oxygen.1, 2 Oxygen therapy has good short-term and long-term effects in people who have COPD.3
oxygen may also improve confusion and memory problems. It may improve impaired
kidney function caused by low oxygen levels.
Typically there are no risks from oxygen
treatment as long as you follow your doctor's instructions. But oxygen is a
fire hazard, so it is important to follow safety rules. Do not use oxygen
around lit cigarettes, open flames, or anything flammable.
is usually prescribed to raise the PaO2 to between 60 and 65 mm Hg or the
saturations from 90% to 92%. Higher flow rates usually do not help, and they
can even be dangerous.
People using oxygen should not
Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes or an open flame.
If you or those who care for you smoke, or if there are other risks for fire,
it is important to consider oxygen treatment very carefully because of the
danger of fire or explosion.
You may need oxygen in certain
Complete the special treatment information form (PDF)special treatment information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this treatment.
McIvor RA, et al. (2011). COPD, search date April 2010. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinical
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
(2011). Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Available online:
Kim V, et al. (2008). Oxygen therapy in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society, 5(4): 513–518.
November 29, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
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