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Study challenges value of oxygen therapy in end-of-life care
Date:9/2/2010

based on clear evidence about what do to because we haven't had any. There's never been a large, meaningful study on the role of oxygen therapy to treat unrelenting shortness of break in this population until now."

Abernethy led a multinational team of scientists in studying 239 patients in outpatient clinics in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. who were randomized to receive either oxygen or room air for one week to see if would help ease their breathing. Most of the participants had advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but some also had had lung cancer, heart failure, or other disorders.

Participants were given canisters and fitted with nasal tubes that would deliver either oxygen or room air at the nose. Neither the patients nor their caregivers knew who was getting which therapy. Participants were instructed to keep diaries of the experience and to rate any change in their symptoms using a 1 to 10 scale twice daily.

Just over half of the patients in both groups reported that the interventions offered some degree of relief. Both treatments led to equal overall improvement in shortness of breath with corresponding change in quality of life and sleep. And when improvement occurred, it came quickly for most, within three days.

"Interestingly, for the approximately half of study participants who reported a benefit, we found it didn't make any difference if they got oxygen or just room air," says Abernethy. "The same percentage of patients in both groups reported the same degree of relief from each treatment, so we have to conclude that supplemental oxygen isn't necessary and delivering air by the nose works just as well."

Abernethy says what is clear is that some sort of air rushing near the nose does indeed help some people. But she points out that the same level of relief might be accomplished by using something as simple as a small fan. "It would certainly be less cumbersome and less costly."


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Contact: Michelle Gailiun
michelle.gailiun@duke.edu
919-660-1306
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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