The term oxygen therapy refers to the inhalation or breathing in of oxygen. Oxygen is an element that reacts with carbohydrates to form energy during the process of aerobic respiration, and is thus considered essential for carrying out metabolic processes that sustain human life.
Oxygen therapy is administered in two ways. The first method is called medical oxygen therapy, in which the air pressure of the oxygen administered to the patient is the same as the air pressure surrounding the patient. Medical oxygen therapy may be given in almost any setting. The second method, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, involves the administration of oxygen at a higher air pressure than that surrounding the patient, and must be administered in a special chamber. In both methods, the oxygen is inhaled.
Oxygen therapy is used for a variety of medical purposes, in order to increase the availability of oxygen to body tissues. The concentration of oxygen may vary from 21% (identical to that in air) to 100%. Oxygen is used as a therapy for healthy patients as well as a form of treatment for patients with medical disorders and illnesses. Oxygen is delivered using a variety of devices.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved oxygen therapy as a treatment for a number of conditions, in both emergency and non-emergency circumstances, including non-healing wounds (post-surgical or diabetic), radiation induced soft tissue death and osteonecrosis (death of bone tissue), flesh eating bacteria, carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, acute arterial ischemia (crush injury, compartment syndrome), compromised skin grafts or flaps, severe infection by anaerobic bacteria (such as gas gangrene), air or gas embolism, and severe uncorrected anemia (low red blood cell count resulting in fatigue and weakness) when blood transfusion is not available (not available or blood transfusion forbidden for religious reasons).
Oxygen therapy is considered the standard treatment for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in order to provide breathing assistance for patients.
Oxygen therapy may be administered for one session only, or it may be used daily over long periods of time. Based on the medical condition requiring oxygen therapy, a healthcare provider determines how long a patient should receive oxygen therapy.
Inhalation: There are numerous studies showing the effectiveness of inhaling oxygen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved oxygen therapy as a treatment for a number of conditions, in both emergency and non-emergency circumstances, including non-healing wounds (post-surgical or diabetic), radiation induced soft tissue death and osteonecrosis (death of bone tissue), flesh eating bacteria, carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, acute arterial ischemia (crush injury, compartment syndrome), compromised skin grafts or flaps, severe infection by anaerobic bacteria (such as gas gangrene), air or gas embolism, and severe uncorrected anemia (low red blood cell count resulting in fatigue and weakness) when blood transfusion is not available (not available or blood transfusion forbidden for religious reasons).
By mouth: Vitamin O supplements, composed largely of salt water and "stabilized" or "aerobic" oxygen, have been purported to cure or prevent serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease and to enrich the bloodstream with supplemental oxygen. Proponents of vitamin O claim that disease occurs because the body is lacking in oxygen. It is therefore believed that by ingesting oxygen via vitamin O supplements, various ailments may be reversed. There is currently insufficient available clinical evidence to support the use of vitamin O supplements for any indication.
Abidia A, Laden G, Kuhan G, et al. The role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in ischaemic diabetic lower extremity ulcers: a double-blind randomised-controlled trial. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2003 Jun;25(6):513-8.
Andersson I, Johansson K, Larsson S, et al. Long-term oxygen therapy and quality of life in elderly patients hospitalised due to severe exacerbation of COPD. A 1 year follow-up study. Respir Med. 2002 Nov;96(11):944-9.
Oxygen is almost always delivered in the form of a continually flowing gas. The duration of oxygen therapy varies according to the medical condition of the patient. For instance, patients with carbon dioxide poisoning or decompression sickness may only receive oxygen for a short period of time, whereas individuals with certain kinds of diabetic wounds or a chronic eye condition may receive oxygen on a regular basis. Some individuals, such as those with the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), may require oxygen therapy for the rest of their lives.
A variety of different machines and devices are used to administer oxygen therapy, including tubes that go into the nose, a face mask, an anesthetic machine, and specialized masks such as flight masks. Hyperbaric pressure therapy is usually given in a small chamber. Bag-valve-masks require that the individual squeeze the device to deliver the oxygen.
Oxygen is contained and transported in a number of ways. Specialized types of cylinders may be less stable, but they hold more oxygen because oxygen is compacted until it is ready to be used. In general, oxygen cylinders need to be refilled. Oxygen concentrators are larger than oxygen cylinders, remove oxygen from the surrounding air to purify it, and do not need to be refilled.
Some individuals may need to enter a special room or chamber to inhale oxygen. In these cases, the oxygen is not stored in the room, but pumped in. This is usually the case on airplanes and in hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy may also be given in an individual's room in their home.
Oxygen is an element essential to human life, and has been referred to as "vitamin O," even though it is not a true vitamin.
Taking oxygen as a "vitamin O" supplement is a practice not endorsed by any major medical organization. There appears to be two types of vitamin O products available on the market. The first is an expensive health supplement that is composed largely of salt water and "stabilized" or "aerobic" oxygen, and is marketed under many different brand names. Companies, such as RGarden have advertised vitamin O (without germanium) as a purported cure or preventive agent for serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. It has also been claimed that when taken by mouth, vitamin O supplements may enrich the bloodstream with supplemental oxygen. The second vitamin O product currently available contains the element germanium, which when synthetically derived has been said to be potentially nontoxic and safe at high doses. The various health claims for use of vitamin O have not been substantiated with scientific evidence. However, numerous product testimonials mention the effects of vitamin O on a variety of conditions.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.