Oxygen therapy slashes death rate among COPD patients

Sydney: Controlled oxygen therapy can slash death rate among patients of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by up to 78 percent.

COPD is a chronic lung disease that affects over 200 million people worldwide. It is characterised by breathing difficulties, a progressive, disabling and potentially fatal condition.

It is estimated up to be the fourth biggest killer of Australians, reports the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Unlike asthma, COPD is not reversible with medications and it is most commonly found in people who have smoked cigarettes or been exposed to airborne irritants.

Menzies Research Institute Tasmania scientists have found the risk of death in patients with COPD significantly reduced by using controlled oxygen therapy instead of the standard approach of high concentration levels of oxygen, according to a Menzies release.

Senior study author and co-investigator, Associate Professor Wood-Baker says: "Giving high concentration oxygen to patients with COPD, however, can lead to a build up of carbon dioxide in the blood, which can lead to respiratory failure."

The study involved 405 patients aged 35 years and over, treated by 62 paramedics from the Tasmanian Ambulance Service and transported to a local hospital.

Overall, controlled oxygen therapy reduced the risk of death from respiratory failure by 58 percent for all patients and 78 percent for confirmed COPD patients, compared to high concentration oxygen therapy.