Oxygen therapy

  • It has been observed that COPD patients tend to go into hypoxemia (low oxygen concentration in blood) with or without carbon dioxide retention. Hypoxemia can be of a short duration (acute) or long duration (chronic).
  • Hypoxemia is said to occur during episodes of extensive lung infections, during exercise or during sleep.
  • Episodes of hypoxemia may be tested by using a pulse oximeter (oxygen measuring device in blood) or with blood gas analysis.
  • Such patients of hypoxemia are prone to develop cor-pulmonale (right sided heart failure).
  • These patients benefit from Long Term Oxygen Therapy (LTOT), which increases the quality of life in these patients and also prolongs survival.
  • It is suggested that oxygen be administered in acute cases during exercise or during sleep and in chronic cases continuously for a minimum of twelve hours per day.
  • The amount of oxygen to be taken by the patient is prescribed by the treating physician according to his requirement.
  • Commercially, oxygen is available in the form of :
    • Compressed oxygen
    • Liquid oxygen
    • Oxygen concentrator
  • Compressed oxygen is available in cylinders of various sizes. It is the least expensive form of oxygen available.
  • Liquid oxygen is available in a large stationary unit which can be kept at home and a small portable unit, which can be filled and refilled from the main stationary unit. It is the most expensive form of oxygen available.
  • Oxygen concentrator is an electric oxygen concentrating system, which extracts air from the room and provides nearly 100% pure oxygen. It can not deliver oxygen at high flow rates and compromises on the purity of oxygen delivered.
  • It should be given under strict guidance of your physician.

Disadvantages of oxygen in COPD

  • Large flows of oxygen given to a COPD patient may compromise his respiration and result in serious complications.
  • Lung injury on long term oxygen use can occur due to the formation of oxygen free radicles.
  • Risk of fire in case of exposure to flame or high temperatures.