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Oxygen Therapy

Definition

Oxygen therapy is a method of passing extra oxygen to the lungs. It is done to increase the level of oxygen in your blood.

Lung Respiration
Lungs respiration

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Reasons for Procedure  ^

Oxygen therapy is needed when you cannot get enough oxygen breathing normal air. It is most often needed because of a health problem or injury. Some common reasons that people need oxygen therapy include:

Possible Complications  ^

Oxygen therapy is safe. There is an increased risk of fire around oxygen, but basic steps will help avoid this:

  • Keep the oxygen supply away from open flames.
  • Do not smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke around you.

What to Expect  ^

Prior to Procedure

Oxygen therapy is only given if you have low oxygen levels in your blood. Your blood oxygen levels will be measured. This can be done with a quick scan on your fingers.

A prescription for oxygen will be needed. The prescription will include:

  • How much oxygen is needed
  • How the oxygen will be given
  • When to use it

Description of the Procedure

Oxygen therapy is most often given with a nasal cannula or a facemask. A nasal cannula is a tube that is put just under your nostrils. If you have a stoma, oxygen can also be given through a tube directly to the stoma.

Oxygen may be delivered through 1 of 3 systems:

  • Concentrators—electrical device that pull oxygen from the air
  • Compressed gas systems—available in steel or aluminum tanks (including small tanks that can be carried)
  • Liquid systems—include both a large, stationary component and a smaller, portable component to carry oxygen

How Long Will It Take?

The amount of oxygen therapy is based on your condition. It may be needed for a few hours a day or 24 hours a day.

Will It Hurt?

Oxygen therapy is painless.

Call Your Doctor  ^

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain
  • Gray/blue tint around eyes, lips, and gums
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • You are having trouble delivering the oxygen

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Lung Association
http://www.lung.org

Children's Health Network
http://www.cpnonline.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Lung Association
http://www.lung.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

REFERENCES:

Bateman NT, Leach RM. ABC of oxygen. BMJ. 1998;317:798-801.

Bailey RE. Home oxygen therapy for treatment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(5). Available at http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0901/p864.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Oxygen therapy. American thoracic society website. Available at: http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/oxygen-therapy.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Supplemental oxygen. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/supplemental-oxygen.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Last reviewed December 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MDLast Updated: 12/20/2014