Oxygen therapy for heart failure
Oxygen that may be supplied by:
- Oxygen concentrators
- Liquid-oxygen devices
- Oxygen-gas cylinders (also called tanks)
How It Works
Normally when you breathe in, oxygen enters your lungs and goes into your bloodstream. With oxygen therapy, you breathe in concentrated oxygen to increase the amount of oxygen that enters your blood and, ultimately, your body's cells.
Oxygen therapy may be given using several delivery systems, including oxygen concentrators, oxygen-gas tanks, and liquid-oxygen devices. Oxygen therapy is usually portable, and you can use it while doing daily tasks.
- Concentrators, which take oxygen from the air, are the least expensive. But they need to be plugged in and are fairly heavy [about 30 lb (13.6 kg)]. You might use an oxygen concentrator in your home.
- Tanks of compressed or pressurized oxygen gas come in several sizes. The largest are too heavy to move around. Smaller tanks can be carried or pulled in a small cart. You may use a large tank as backup in your home and have smaller tanks for use outside the home.
- Liquid oxygen takes up less room than oxygen gas. Because of this, smaller and lighter containers can hold more oxygen.
Oxygen can be given through a flexible plastic tube inserted in the nostrils (nasal cannula) or through a face mask.
- The nasal cannula gives you the greatest freedom for moving around and talking. But this method may be more expensive than other devices because of oxygen lost to the air. The amount of oxygen actually inhaled may be less than with other methods of delivery.
- People who need a higher flow of oxygen can use a face mask. A face mask is less portable and gets in the way of talking and eating. You may use a face mask at night and a nasal cannula during the day.
Selecting the type of oxygen supply should be based on your ability to move around. People who seldom leave the house may find that an oxygen concentrator gives the best combination of convenience and cost. More active people may have an oxygen concentrator at home and use compressed or liquid oxygen when they leave the house.
Oxygen is a fire hazard. It is important to follow safety measures to keep you and your family safe. With all oxygen delivery systems, do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes or an open flame because the risk of fire or explosion is high. If you or those who care for you smoke, be sure to think very carefully about using oxygen therapy.
Why It Is Used
Long-term oxygen therapy is given to people with heart failure who have low levels of oxygen in their blood. It is given to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood to provide for the body's needs.
Oxygen therapy can decrease shortness of breath and allow you to do more.
How Well It Works
Oxygen therapy helps reduce the heart's workload. In heart failure, the heart does not pump as effectively as it should and does not meet the body's needs for oxygen. Oxygen therapy helps compensate by increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to the body's tissues.
Home oxygen therapy can help decrease shortness of breath and increase your capacity to exercise.
In general, there are no adverse effects from oxygen treatment. But oxygen is a fire hazard. It is important to follow safety measures to keep you and your family safe. Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes, open flames, or flammable substances.
Your doctor will set the flow rate per minute to give you the right amount of oxygen. Don't change the flow rate unless your doctor tells you. Higher flow rates usually do not help and can increase the risk of harmful carbon dioxide buildup in the blood, especially in those people who also have lung disease.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes or an open flame. If you or those who care for you smoke, be sure to consider oxygen therapy very carefully because of the danger of fire or explosion. Put up no-smoking signs in your home. Stay at least 5 ft (1.5 m) away from gas stoves, candles, lighted fireplaces, or anything that produces sparks.
Oxygen is usually delivered by a small plastic tube called a cannula. The cannula is placed under the nostrils and wrapped around your ears. To prevent your nose and cheeks and the skin behind your ears from becoming irritated, tuck some gauze under the tubing and use a water-based lubricant on chafed areas.
Oxygen can also be delivered through a face mask or by a number of other devices.
Traveling while you are on oxygen therapy usually can be done if you plan ahead.