Oxygen Therapy. What exactly is it?
oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy is the provision of oxygen to assist a person suffering from any condition that requires immediate additional oxygen to maintain healthy cell function where oxygen levels have become desaturated.

A range of both acute and chronic medical conditions require the administration of oxygen. As such oxygen therapy is widely used in chronic medical situations such as severe injury/trauma as well as by many people suffering from a range of respiratory conditions requiring supplemental oxygen on a daily basis.

Sufferers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cardiac conditions, asthma, and asbestosis to name a few all benefit from/require supplemental oxygen.

A person with insufficient lung function or impaired capacity to oxygenate the blood will usually be prescribed supplemental oxygen.

The oxygen can be supplied by several methods including liquid oxygen - mainly used in hospitals, gas cylinder - suitable for home use and the more recent development of continuous flow oxygen machines and portable oxygen concentrators that allow much greater physical freedom to the individual.

Healthcare oxygen therapy services

The oxygen is delivered via either a nasal cannula - a piece of plastic tubing with two curved nasal prongs that sit in the front of the nostrils or by way of a face mask.

Nasal cannulas are available in varying lengths to allow the user some freedom of movement.

Face masks vary in style and design according to the condition of the person and their oxygen supplemental levels. As always, consult your doctor/specialist as Oxygen Therapy requires a prescription.

Learn About Oxygen Theraphy and How to overcome COPD by Dr. Erika Smith

What is oxygen therapy in COPD and when do I need to use it?

It's really important that we separate out when someone has low oxygen in their blood by the pulse oximeter reading or by the blood gas, versus someone who's just short of breath because a patient can be really short of breath and have normal oxygen and I've had patients that have come to me that aren't that short of breath but their oxygen is low. So that's why we need to measure this the test.

Patients with FEV 1s less than around fifty to forty percent really should have it measured at every single visit. I personally measure the oxygen saturation at every visit in all of my patients but I think it's very important with those with more severe lung disease.

Now once the oxygen level is low and a little bit different in different patients depending on what other diseases they have but certainly when it's eighty eight, eighty seven percent, even eighty nine percent in some patients, when they're just sitting resting that person needs to wear the oxygen twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

Now it's really hard for them to wear that all the time. So really the cut off number is sixteen hours a day, if they'll wear it at least sixteen hours a day every single day then that reduces their chance of dying from COPD, like drastically.

Can supplemental oxygen reduce mortality for people who have severe COPD?

Absolutely and it's the number one thing that we have that reduces mortality, we know other things reduce mortality as well but oxygen is probably the biggest bang for the buck in patients with resting hypoxia, meaning they're just sitting down.

Now in those that have normal oxygen at rest but then they walk and their oxygen goes down, right now we give them oxygen and we think that it's probably helpful and there's a large study that's going on right now to really see the benefit of that because that hasn't been studied as well as those that have low oxygen at rest.

What kind of oxygen devices will they need to sustain supplemental oxygen?

There are a lots of different types of oxygen devices, most are given through the little nasal cannulas that you see patients walking around with. There are portable ones, that they can walk around with some trolley and are much heavier, some are a liquid and they actually can carry them like on a little backpack, then usually around the house there's a thing called oxygen concentrators that plugs into the wall and they have a long cord that they can walk around their house with a long tube so that they can wear their oxygen.

I had a patient the other day that she told me, you know they gave me this big oxygen cylinders that I need to carry around when I go anywhere, and she saw another person who had it  small device, that doesn’t need any cylinders.

What are the latest oxygen concentrators available right now?

We have available handy oxygen machines called the “portable oxygen concentrators,” rather than the big bulky machines this portables can be pluged in, either to the wall or to the cigarette lighter slot in the car, They actually produce the oxygen there, so you don't have to have the big oxygen cylinders, the big thing is costly and so different plans cover different machines and devices and so it's really important to figure out… so your patients not paying out of pocket what devices their insurance company covers.

I had a patient with severe COPD, that he wants to go on vacation and he wants to travel and get in a plane with him the portable oxygen. Now the question is can I bring my portable oxygen or my cylinder inside the plane?  

They definitely need to arrange the oxygen ahead of time, they're not allowed to take the machine with them on the plane, so they can have it up until they get in the airport in the in the airport the airlines will arrange ahead of time to have the oxygen there, they can arrange to have the oxygen on the plane and then they need to have the oxygen company deliver some oxygen to them when they land.

So it can be done it just takes some planning, so they should contact the airline too to be sure what is needed from their side in order to achieve that.

What is oxygen therapy?