Oxygen not best for COPD

GPs should not be using short-burst oxygen therapy (SBOT) to relieve breathlessness in COPD patients, suggests UK research.

Twenty-two patients with COPD were randomised to use either an air or oxygen gas cylinder for two daily activities for which they normally used SBOT for relief of breathlessness.

The researchers found no difference in recovery times with oxygen compared to air.

Additionally, only five of the patients were able to tell the difference between oxygen and air.

They concluded that the beneficial effects of SBOT were too small to justify the cost of such a treatment. In the UK, nearly £18 million was spent on oxygen cylinders in 2004/5.

Dr Kevin Gruffydd-Jones, a GPSI in respiratory medicine in Wiltshire, said that there was over prescribing and inappropriate use of SBOT.

‘A lot of prescribing of SBOT is to reassure patients through the placebo effect,’ he said.

There are still a lot of grey areas with regards to SBOT that need to be tightened.'

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