End-of-life Oxygen Not Always Advised

DURHAM, N.C., Sept. 6 (UPI) — A team of researchers in the United States, Australia and Britain challenge automatically using oxygen therapy during end-of-life care.

Dr. Amy Abernethy of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., says about half of the patients in palliative care receiving oxygen to ease breathing may derive no benefit from the therapy.

The study, published in The Lancet, also finds for those end-of-life patients who do benefit from the therapy, pure oxygen is no more beneficial that ordinary room air. Both help shortness of breath with corresponding quality of life and sleep improvements, the researchers say. If improvement comes, it is usually within three days, the study says.

“It’s important to understand that we are not suggesting that physicians abandon medical gas therapy. It may indeed be helpful,” Abernethy, the lead author, said in statement. “But this study tells us that it is not the oxygen itself that is making the difference, and if treatment is not improving symptoms after a few days, then it’s OK to stop treatment and try something else.”

Abernethy and colleagues had 239 patients in the three countries — randomly receive either oxygen or room air for one week via canisters with nasal tubes. Patients kept diaries in which symptoms were rated on a one to 10 scale twice daily.

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