Helium-Oxygen Mix Improves Endurance in COPD Patients

Inhaling mixture allows patients to walk farther, reduces dyspnea

MONDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Inhaling a mixture of helium and oxygen enables patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to walk farther with less shortness of breath, according to a study in the April 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Elizabeth A. Laude, Ph.D., of the University of Sheffield, U.K., and colleagues conducted a study of 82 patients with a mean age of 69.7 who had stable COPD. They measured endurance shuttle walking distance, resting and exercise oxygen saturation and end-exercise dyspnea while breathing one of four gases: Heliox28 (72 percent helium, 28 percent oxygen), Heliox21 (79 percent helium 21 percent oxygen), Oxygen28 (72 percent nitrogen, 28 percent oxygen) or medical air (79 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen).

The greatest extension in walking distance and reduction in dyspnea was achieved while breathing Heliox28. Breathing Heliox21 and Oxygen28 also increased walking distance and decreased dyspnea, though to a lesser extent.

"Reducing inspired gas density can improve exercise performance in COPD as much as increasing inspired oxygen," the authors write. "These effects can be combined as Heliox28 and are most evident in patients with more severe airflow obstruction."

The research was supported by BOC Ltd.

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Jane Parry

Jane Parry

Updated on April 17, 2006

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