Why do you not give oxygen to COPD patients?

An estimated 16 million adults in the US are diagnosed with COPD, acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Patients with the progressive lung disease experience difficulty in breathing as a result of the obstructed airflow in the lungs. While treatment protocols are in place to deal with the condition, there are certain options that need to be explicitly followed to avoid possible aggravation of the condition. Following subsections offer a detailed look at the diseases, symptoms and treatment, also answering the question – Why do you not give oxygen to COPD patients? This will help individuals handle the condition more effectively and seek the right treatment.

Overview of COPD

Attributed to long-term exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and harmful particles that damage the lungs over time, COPD is broadly classified into two types – chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis involves inflammation and narrowing of the airways, resulting in increased production of mucus and persistent coughing. Emphysema, causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs, reducing elasticity and making it harder for normal expansion and contraction during breathing. Individuals may sometimes be afflicted with both conditions, and COPD is generally progressive in nature.

Common symptoms of COPD

Symptoms that commonly indicate COPD may vary, and depend on the stage and severity of the disease, though certain symptoms are common as listed below:

Treatment of COPD

Treatment typically relies on a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, pulmonary rehabilitation, and, in certain instances, surgical intervention. Supplemental oxygen is also a part of protocol but only in a controlled manner. The purpose is to relieve symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and improve overall lung function and quality of life. Common protocols include the following:

Why do you not give oxygen to COPD patients?

Oxygen therapy, as mentioned above is part of treatment for COPD, for patients with low blood oxygen levels. However, oxygen therapy for COPD should be prescribed and monitored by a qualified healthcare professional based on individual patient assessment and specific oxygenation needs. All COPD patients will not require oxygen therapy, and in some cases, may not be appropriate. This is because excessive oxygen supplementation can potentially lead to complications – oxygen toxicity or respiratory depression.

What is the target oxygen saturation levels for patients with COPD?

The target oxygen saturation levels for patients with COPD could be between 88% and 92%. Various methods may be used to assess oxygen saturation levels, such as pulse oximetry (a non-invasive test that measures oxygen saturation in the blood) or arterial blood gas (ABG) analysis (invasive test that provides more accurate information about blood oxygen levels).

Methods for oxygen delivery to patients with COPD?

Common methods of oxygen delivery for COPD patients include the following:

What are the common risks of uncontrolled oxygen delivery?

One of the reasons for hospital admissions is acute exacerbation of COPD. While healthcare professionals consider putting patients on high concentrations of inspired oxygen, studies have indicated that this could be dangerous for patients with COPD. While there are guidelines against this practice, this practice continues, and the same has been documented over the years. For patients with COPD, uncontrolled oxygen delivery can result in dangerous levels of oxygen as well as carbon dioxide.

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