Giving oxygen doesn’t help all patients, shows study

September 8th, 2010 - 12:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 8 (IANS) Roughly half the patients of critical diseases given oxygen to help ease their breathing don’t seem to benefit from the therapy.

The study of 240 patients in Australia, Britain and the US found that while the practice of giving oxygen to ease breathing is widespread, it is not based on rigorous scientific evidence.

Breathlessness, also known as dyspnea, is experienced by terminal cases of heart failure (60 percent), lung cancer (70 percent) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (90 percent), reports The Lancet.

“So, while having air blow across your face may be helpful, this study demonstrates that for most people it is not the oxygen itself that is making the difference,” study leader David Currow of the Flinders University said.

Study co-author Amy Abernethy of the Duke University in North Carolina noted: “Shortness of breath is distressing for patients and affects their families as well, making normal activities like walking, talking, and socialising difficult.”

Clinical guidelines recommend oxygen when blood oxygen levels fall so low that a patient becomes hypoxic — when there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood to keep vital functions going.

But there are large numbers of patients whose oxygen levels haven’t fallen into the critical zone who still experience difficulty breathing and feel they need help.

Patients in the trial received either oxygen or room air for one week to see if it would help ease their breathing.

The same percentage of patients in both groups reported the same degree of relief from each treatment, showing that supplemental oxygen isn’t any more beneficial than the delivery of air by the nose.

The results indicate that the same level of relief might be achieved by using something as simple as a small fan, a cost effective and less cumbersome solution.

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