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Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen Therapy


Oxygen therapy is a therapy that introduces in the body of the patient an additional quantity of oxygen: oxygen used by the body to function well and, under normal conditions, which are the lungs absorb it from the air, through breathing. However, there are some diseases and certain disorders that prevent the patient to absorb a sufficient amount of this gas.

Oxygen therapy can help the patient to feel better and be more active. Oxygen is supplied in cylinders of metal or other types of containers. Through a tube and reaches the lungs in one of the following ways:

  • via nasal cannula, formed by two small spouts of plastic, placed one per nostril,
  • through a face mask that covers nose and mouth,
  • through a tube inserted into the trachea at the base of the neck (the doctor makes an incision to insert the tubing. therapy administering the oxygen in this way is said transtracheal oxygen therapy).

Oxygen therapy can be practiced in a hospital, clinic or at home. If the patient needs this therapy for chronic diseases or disorders, probably will be home oxygen therapy.

Respiratory system

To understand how oxygen therapy work, can be useful to know the functioning of the respiratory system, that is the set of organs and tissues that need to breathe. The respiratory system consists of the airways and lungs.

Respiratory allow the passage of air rich in oxygen directly to the lungs. Through them also passes the carbon dioxide (the waste gas) which leaves the lungs.

The air enters the body through the nose or mouth, that damp and heat it; then passes through the larynx and trachea. The trachea divides into two smaller tubes, called bronchi, which are connected to the lungs.

Inside the lungs, the bronchi branch into thousands of smaller and more narrow tubes, called bronchioles. At the end of the bronchioles are many clusters of tiny sacs (alveoli).

Each pocket is covered by a network of tiny blood vessels (capillaries), connected to a network of arteries and veins that circulate blood throughout the body.

When the air reaches the alveoli, the oxygen contained in it passes through the walls of the alveoli and ends up in the blood circulating in the capillaries.

The oxygen-rich blood then reaches the heart through the pulmonary vein and its branches. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the various organs.

Some diseases and certain disorders or acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) can have a negative impact on the exchange of oxygen between the alveoli and the blood: between them remind pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Your doctor will decide whether the patient should undergo oxygen therapy according to the results of the tests, such as gas analysis (EGA), and pulse oximetry. These tests are used to measure the amount of oxygen present in the blood: if the oxygen level is too low, the patient must resort to oxygen.

Oxygen is considered a drug, so it is necessary to receive a doctor's prescription.


Oxygen therapy helps many patients to live a fuller life and more active. It can also be useful for:

  • decrease the sensation of shortness of breath and fatigue,
  • improve the quality of sleep in patients suffering from sleep disorders related to breathing,
  • increase life expectancy in patients with COPD.

Oxygen therapy may be needed in the long term, however, should not limit the patient's daily activities. The portable oxygen tanks can make travel easier and carrying out normal activities.

Oxygen therapy is generally safe, but may present a risk of fire: to use oxygen safely, follow the instructions that will be given by nurses at home.

For those who indicated

Your doctor may recommend oxygen when the oxygen level in the blood is very low.

Acute diseases and conditions

Patients may receive oxygen therapy if they are hospitalized for a serious health condition that prevents them from receiving a sufficient amount of oxygen in the blood. Once cured, probably the therapy is stopped.

Among the disorders and diseases that may require oxygen therapy include:

  • Severe pneumonia. Pneumonia is the infection of one or both lungs. If severe, causes deep inflammation of the alveoli, so that they can not exchange a sufficient amount of oxygen with the blood.
  • Severe asthma attacks. Asthma is a lung disease that inflames and does restrict the bronchi. The majority of patients who suffer from asthma, including many children, is able to manage the symptoms safely, however, if asthma attacks are severe, the patient may need admission to hospital for oxygen therapy.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome or bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature infants. Premature infants may suffer from one or both of these serious lung diseases. As part of the therapy, may receive oxygen through a fan or a mask nasal continuous positive pressure, or via nasal cannula.

Disorders and chronic diseases

The oxygen can be used in the long term to treat certain disorders and certain diseases, for example:

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD is a progressive disease in which the injury to the alveoli prevent the passage of a sufficient amount of oxygen in the blood. The adjective "progressive" means that the disease tends to get worse with the passage of time.
  • Severe heart failure. In this disorder, the heart is unable to pump a sufficient amount of oxygen-rich blood to meet the body's needs.
  • Cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease of the exocrine glands, including those that produce mucus and sweat. In patients suffering from cystic fibrosis airways fill with thick, sticky mucus, which facilitates the growth of bacteria, causing severe and recurrent lung infections. With the passage of time, infections can severely damage the lungs.
  • Sleep-related breathing disorders that are lowering the level of oxygen during sleep, such as sleep apnea.

How it works

Oxygen therapy provides the patient with an additional quantity of oxygen, a gas essential for the proper functioning of the body. Oxygen is available in different forms and can be administered in several ways.

Methods of conservation

The oxygen is stored in three ways: as a compressed gas, as a liquid or as a concentrated form taken from the air.

The compressed oxygen is stored in cylinders of metal of different sizes. Some of them are quite small and therefore the patient can safely carry with them, in a cart, in a bag or a backpack.

Liquid oxygen is very cold. When it comes out from the container, it turns into gas. Liquid oxygen is delivered to the patient's home, in a large container, from which you can transfer it into smaller containers.

The advantage is that liquid oxygen containers take up less space than compressed or concentrated oxygen, liquid oxygen, however, costs more and evaporates easily, so you can not keep too long.

The oxygen concentrators filter out the other gases in the air and store only the oxygen. They are of different sizes, and some of them are also portable.

The oxygen concentrators cost less than the types of oxygen therapy, also because they do not need recharging of oxygen, however, work in electricity, then the patient should have with them a supply of oxygen in the event of a blackout.

Administration systems

In most cases the oxygen is administered via nasal cannula, a device formed by two plastic tubes that fit into both nostrils.

To hold the cannula in place, the patient can adjust the longer ends behind the ears or sticking them to a sort of mask in the shape of glasses which serves to hide the tubes. The tubes then go around behind the ears and come together under the chin, where they are attached to the pipe coming out of the container of oxygen.

In place of the nasal cannula can be used to mask covering his mouth and nose. This method is used especially in cases where the patient needs of high flow oxygen or if the nose is closed due to a cold.

The face mask is held in place by a rubber band encircling the head or tubes that pass behind the ears. The oxygen is administered through a tube connected to the front of the mask.

The oxygen may also be administered via a tube inserted into the trachea, through incision in the front of the neck. To place the tube, medic will practice an incision with a bistoury. This mode of administration of oxygen is called transtracheal oxygen therapy.

Patients receiving transtracheal oxygen therapy must have a humidifier attached to the system of administration of oxygen, because the gas does not pass through the nose or mouth as in the other modes of administration. The humidifier is used to humidify the oxygen and prevent the airway from drying out too much.

The oxygen may also be administered via devices that help breathing, as the fan continuous positive pressure (CPAP).

Before therapy

If you find yourself in an emergency situation (serious incident, suspected heart attack or other events that may endanger your life) in all likelihood you will have to immediately begin ventilation.

In other cases, however, the doctor will decide if you need oxygen therapy based on the results of the examinations. The blood gas and pulse oximetry are able to measure the amount of oxygen present in the blood.

During hemogasanalysis a small needle is inserted into an artery, usually in the wrist: a blood sample is taken, then sent in the laboratory, where the oxygen level is measured.

In pulse oximetry a small sensor has connected at the tip of a finger of the hands or feet. The sensor uses light to estimate the amount of oxygen contained in the blood.

If tests indicate that the amount of oxygen in the blood is too low, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy. In the prescription the doctor will indicate the number of liters of oxygen per minute required for the patient (flow) and the frequency of use of oxygen.

The frequency of use comprises the time when you need to use the oxygen and the duration of therapy. Depending on the condition of the patient and the level of oxygen in your blood, you may need oxygen only at certain times, such as during sleep or exercise.

If your doctor prescribes oxygen therapy, will help you to find someone who will provide you with home oxygen and the necessary equipment.

During therapy

In case of emergency, for example after an accident, an alleged attack, or other events that could endanger your life, in all likelihood you will have to immediately begin ventilation.

During hospitalization, the doctor will examine you and you will check to make sure you are getting the right amount of oxygen. During the oxygen will be assisted by nurses or respiratory therapists.

If you need to receive oxygen therapy at home, who will provide the oxygen will help you to set up all the equipment.

Nurses will teach you how to use the equipment and how to take care of them; will provide the oxygen and will teach you how to handle it safely.

Oxygen is flammable, so you will have to follow special safety precautions. While not explosive, however, is flammable, and then, in the presence of oxygen, a small fire can quickly go out of control. The cylinders of compressed oxygen, in addition, may explode if exposed to heat.

Who will deliver the oxygen at home will give you a list of precautions to be observed in the home and in public places. For example, if you have with you the oxygen:

  • you should not smoke or work near people who smoke,
  • you must not use paint thinners, detergents, diesel, spray and other flammable materials,
  • you have to be at least one meter and a half away from gas stoves, candles and from other sources of heat.

When oxygen is not used, it should be kept in places large and airy. Never store cylinders of compressed oxygen and liquid oxygen in places small area, such as in closets, behind curtains or carpets or near flammable materials.

Oxygen escaping from the containers always a small amount of gas that can accumulate and thus become dangerous if the oxygen is stored in places that are too tight.

Complications and side effects

The oxygen can cause complications and side effects, for example:

  • nasal dryness,
  • epistaxis,
  • skin irritation due to the cannula or mask,
  • fatigue and morning headaches.

If problems persist, tell your doctor and nurses. Depending on the problem, your doctor may change the amount of oxygen or the duration of therapy.

If your nose is too dry, your doctor can recommend a nasal spray, or it can add a humidifier to the administration equipment.

If the cannula or the mask are uncomfortable, nurses can help you find others more comfortable, or can advise gel and useful devices to decrease irritation.

Complications of transtracheal oxygen therapy may be more severe. In this type of oxygen therapy, oxygen is administered through a tube inserted directly into the trachea through a small incision in the front of the neck.

In transtracheal oxygen therapy:

  • It may be the accumulation of phlegm in the trachea, because the oxygen dry airways. The mucus can cause coughing and obstruct the trachea.
  • The tube can slip or break.
  • There is the danger of infection.
  • There is a danger of injury to the walls of the trachea.

The risk of complications decreases with care and properly handling the tubing and other equipment.

Continuous surveillance

To ensure that you get the maximum benefit by oxygen therapy, you have to go to the doctor regularly. Your doctor will monitor your progress and, if necessary, modify the therapy.

Never take initiatives to change the amount of oxygen you are taking or the flow of oxygen. Always speak of the problems or side effects with your doctor: he alone is able to advise you how to modify the therapy.

Ask your doctor when you should contact him and when the first aid in case of emergency. Your doctor can give you advice on what to do if:

  • Have the shorter of breath than usual, suffer of dyspnea or breathing is different from the usual.
  • Have a fever, have more phlegm than usual or presented symptoms of an infection.
  • Have fingers or lips bluish. Are symptoms of the fact that your body is not receiving a sufficient amount of oxygen.
  • Are in a daze, more restless or anxious than usual.

In an emergency, go immediately to the emergency room or call 999.

Posted on 2014-06-25 Home 0 4979

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