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Conditions In Brief

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Definition | Reasons for Procedure | Possible Complications | What to Expect | Call Your Doctor

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 very 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

Oxygen therapy is only given if you have low oxygen levels in your blood. Your doctor will measure your blood oxygen levels. 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

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 one of three 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

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.

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Oxygen therapy is painless.

Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • 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

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Lung Association

http://www.lung.org

Children's Physician Network

http://www.cpnonline.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Lung Association

http://www.lung.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/20040901/cochrane.html. Accessed February 28, 2007.

Oxygen therapy. American thoracic society website. Available at: http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/oxygen-therapy.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2012.

Supplemental oxygen. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/supplemental-oxygen.html. Accessed November 9, 2012.

Last reviewed November 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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