Can Supplemental Oxygen Benefit Emphysema Patients?

Can Supplemental Oxygen Benefit Emphysema Patients?


Emphysema Defined

The disease is characterized by the destruction of the alveoli (oxygen absorbing sacs inside the lungs).The destruction reduces the surface area of the lungs. The lesser surface area that the lung has, the less gaseous exchange will take place between the air inhaled and the gases in the blood. 

Worsening of Emphysema May Look Like This

Acute exacerbation of emphysema presents as the classic COPD image of breathlessness, coughing, mucus production and the mental and physical effects of hypoxemia. 

What are the Treatment Options? 

Following are some of the best treatment options for a patient suffering from emphysema. The physician will choose treatment plan according to the test results and presenting pictures.

Bronchodilators are the First Line of Defense

These medicines are given as tablets or as metered dose inhalers. The muscles of the lungs and the airways relax. Usually the drugs are beta blockers or anti-cholinergic. Short acting drugs are sometimes only given when the patient feels shortness of breath and the medicine remains effective 6 hours or less. The long acting drugs on the other hand work for up to 12 hours. 


Steroids Prescription in Emphysema

The function of steroids is to reduces the inflammation inside the body. When given through an inhaler, the steroid will work to reduce the inflammation inside the air passageways. This helps widen the air passageways and that consequently assists in better oxygen passage. 

Expectorants and Antibiotics Work Hand in Hand


When it comes to pulmonary health, there is always a chance that an infection from virus or bacteria will choke up the air passageways. Expectorants help expel the mucus collecting within the air passageways. On the other end of the spectrum we have antibiotics that help stop the infection to prevent the progression of the infection into a full blown pneumonia. 

Oxygen Therapy in Emphysema

The truth is, supplemental oxygen therapy can easily improve the health of a patient with Emphysema. However, there are guidelines that are in place to prevent wrongful prescription. Oxygen level of less than 55mmHg is necessary for becoming applicable to get oxygen therapy. The oxygen therapy will need to be monitored properly with a pulse oximeter

The Criteria for Oxygen Therapy

For a patient to receive oxygen therapy they must have either blood oxygen level of 88% or it should be 55mmHg. A patient will need to have access to their oxygen source for more than 14 hours per day in such a case. 

If the oxygen level remains stable throughout the day and only falls below at the time of physical exertion, the patient get a prescription of supplemental oxygen therapy. Even for these patients, if the patient’s oxygen levels fall down to below 88% or 55mmHg.  

Careful Consideration of Options in Oxygen Therapy

There are 2 main options for administration of supplemental oxygen therapy. 

  1. Oxygen Cylinder: An oxygen cylinder has 100% pure oxygen stored inside. The limited amount of oxygen needs to be refilled once the patient has used it up. The patient can carry around this behemoth of an option if they want to, but there are better options available to do that. It is important to remember that the compressed oxygen option is cheaper for the patient at a time but the collective cost is higher.
  1. Oxygen Concentrator: A concentrator can be portable or stationary. A concentrator basically compresses the air and then separates out the oxygen from the nitrogen in air via PSA technology. The portable options are a rechargeable and light option that can supply endless amount of oxygen. The liter per minute requirements by the physician define the type of oxygen concentrator one actually buys. 

Possible Issues with Oxygen Therapy 

While the use of a portable oxygen concentrator or a regular home oxygen concentrator unit brings ease to the life the patient, there are certain points of concern when it comes to prescribing them. 

Are oxygen devices safe? 

You will find that the oxygen gas is highly inflammable. An inflammable gas pressure packed in a cylinder is highly dangerous as heat and flame can cause the cylinder to burst/explode. The oxygen concentrators require just as much care from the user. Flame is bad for oxygen devices. 

Oxygen and its effects on the respiratory tract

While oxygen is a necessity, the administration and subsequent effects leave much to be desired. When a patient receives supplemental oxygen therapy, they get dry mucosal surfaces in respiratory tract. The dryness often leads to nosebleeds. Patient experiences coughing as well. 

Oxygen in excess is bad? 

The higher level of oxygen in blood can lead to even higher level of carbon in the body, hypercapnia is harmful for organs. Oxygen toxicity on the other hand will damage your lungs and that will result in symptoms like breathlessness and coughing, chest pain, headache, anxiety and seizures.

Surgical Modalities in Emphysema Treatment

There are many invasive and non-invasive options in emphysema surgical treatment. In the non-invasive option, the doctors will perform bronchoscopic lung reduction by adding endobronchial valve implants to stop the access of air to the damaged parts of the lung. On the other hand, the surgical alternative of this procedure is Lung volume reduction surgery where parts of the lung are sectioned off. 


Another final solution is lung transplant. This modality comes with the risk of transplant’s lack of matching and the infections that result from the patient taking immunosuppressant. 

Getting the Best Treatment With Sanai Health

With access to proper technology, your emphysema care would be a breeze. Sanai Health has some of the best oxygen concentrators to help you breath in oxygen. Some of Sanai’s models come with humidifier function to help the patient’s mucosa remain hydrated. Our pulse oximeter can easily assess your blood oxygen levels and thus help you refrain from overdosing on oxygen. 

Check out the website to have a look at different models. 

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