Some COPD Patients Benefit More From Long-Term Oxygen Therapy Than Others

woman doctor with breathing machineCertain people with the lung disease known as COPD will not benefit from long-term oxygen therapy, a new study reports. The finding will help doctors and patients choose among different treatment options for this common condition, which makes it hard to breathe.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. The disease damages the lung’s airways, so less air can be breathed in and out. As a result, less oxygen can pass through the lungs and into the blood, and blood oxygen levels drop.

COPD symptoms—like coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness—get worse over time. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, and medicines that help open the airways.

Long-term oxygen therapy has been shown to help COPD patients who have severely low blood oxygen. This therapy involves breathing in oxygen through a nasal tube or mask.

NIH-funded scientists set out to determine if this same treatment would also help COPD patients who had moderately low blood oxygen.