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Portable Oxygen May Not Benefit Some with COPD

Study finds no difference between oxygen and placebo in COPD patient subgroup

THURSDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term ambulatory oxygen therapy may not help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) function better in terms of their activities of daily living, according to a report in the Aug. 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Roger Goldstein, M.D., of West Park Healthcare Center in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues enrolled 27 patients with COPD who did not have chronic hypoxemia at rest, the criteria for mortality reduction with long-term oxygen therapy. Each individual underwent three pairs of two-week treatment periods in which they inhaled either oxygen or a placebo air mixture during activities that usually made them short of breath.

Patients took 427 steps (on average) on oxygen during a five-minute walk test, compared to 412 on placebo. The mean dyspnea change score during this test was 3.2 on placebo and 2.8 on oxygen. There were no significant differences in overall patient responses to either oxygen or placebo. Four individual patients did consistently have higher Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire dyspnea scores during the oxygen treatment than during placebo, two of which could be classified as responders.

However, the patients used oxygen for only about 40 minutes per day, "raising question as to their level of dyspnea-inducing activities," according to an editorial. "The findings…challenge those of us who prescribe oxygen to explore the intricacies of real-world activity levels of our patients and how oxygen may benefit those individuals."

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