How does oxygen therapy help with COPD

Oxygen therapy

What is oxygen therapy?

The term oxygen therapy is usually used to describe the Long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT = long-term oxygen therapy). With this, a severe, chronic oxygen deficiency (hypoxemia) is treated by continuously or daily oxygen supply (over 15 hours). In the long term, oxygen therapy improves the quality of life of patients with severe lung diseases or cardiac insufficiency. In severe cases, it can even be vital.

A short-term oxygen therapy can ensure patient survival after accidents or carbon monoxide poisoning.

A distinction must be made between classic oxygen therapy (long-term or short-term), oxygen multi-step therapy - a procedure from the field of alternative medicine, the effectiveness of which has never been proven and which is very controversial and is therefore not dealt with in this article.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

Another type of medical oxygen application is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, for example for tinnitus. You can find out more about this in the article Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

When do you do oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy is used for diseases in which an adequate supply of oxygen cannot be guaranteed in any other way. In these diseases, the oxygen uptake in the red blood cells is insufficient to adequately supply the organs of the body.

Such a chronic lack of oxygen is called chronic hypoxemic respiratory failure designated. It is defined as a multiple drop in the oxygen pressure in the blood below 55 mmHg within three weeks under resting conditions and with normal atmospheric oxygen concentration, determined by a blood gas analysis. In patients with COPD and simultaneous secondary polyglobulia (increase in the number of red blood cells) and / or a "pulmonary heart" (cor pulmonale), oxygen therapy is indicated when the oxygen pressure in the blood drops below 60 mmHg.

The most common diseases with hypoxemia are:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema
  • Diseases of the lungs such as sarcoid
  • Cystic fibrosis (cystic fibrosis)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • severe chronic heart failure (heart failure)

If the hypoxemia only occurs at night or if a patient's state of health does not improve through oxygen therapy, the oxygen therapy must be replaced or supplemented by another treatment.

What do you do with oxygen therapy?

A detailed diagnosis of the timing, causes and severity of the oxygen deficiency is a prerequisite for prescribing oxygen therapy. The oxygen pressure and oxygen saturation in the patient's blood are then determined by means of blood gas analysis. The individually required amount of oxygen can be determined on the basis of these measured values.

In most cases, the oxygen is administered through a so-called nasal cannula, nasal mask or nasogastric tube. Very rarely, a special catheter is used, which is inserted into the lungs through an incision in the windpipe below the larynx.

Often they are operated electrically for oxygen therapy stationary systems - so-called oxygen concentrators - are used, which can also be used at night while sleeping. In other cases come mobile pressure bottles are used, with which those affected are also mobile during oxygen therapy. For sufficiently mobile patients, a Liquid oxygen system with portable oxygen tank proven. The tank is refilled or replaced approximately every two weeks.

What are the risks of oxygen therapy?

Side effects of properly performed oxygen therapy are very rare, but can also occur with correct use:

  • The incoming oxygen can dry out the nasal mucosa. A humidifier and nourishing ointments can counteract this.
  • Oxygen therapy devices are a potential source of infection for bacteria and fungi.
  • If the oxygen concentration in the blood exceeds normal values, this can inhibit the respiratory drive and increase the carbon dioxide level in the blood. This triggers drowsiness and can even turn into a life-threatening so-called CO2-Out of anesthesia.
  • Pure oxygen escaping from the devices can easily ignite.

What do I have to consider with oxygen therapy?

Consistent and long-term oxygen therapy in the flow rate specified by the doctor is important. In the case of chronic hypoxemia, the duration of application should not be less than 15 hours, as the positive effects on the clinical picture continue to improve with the duration of the therapy.

Particularly important: You must not smoke while oxygen therapy is in progress, as the oxygen can ignite. The best thing to do is to give up smoking entirely - also for the sake of your poor health.

Never stop the oxygen therapy prescribed by a doctor on your own initiative.

Regular checks and hygiene of the devices and oxygen probes used ensure that they can be used without complications.

If, despite Oxygen therapy worsened, you should not hesitate to contact your doctor.

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