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Guidance on Emergency Oxygen

British Thoracic Society has published updated guidance on the use of emergency oxygen.

The British Thoracic Society has published updated guidance on the use of emergency oxygen. It is based on new evidence about how effective prescribing and delivery of emergency oxygen for patients can both improve health and save lives.

Oxygen can be used to help treat a number of lung diseases, such as pneumonia or deteriorations in asthma or COPD. The rationale for giving emergency oxygen treatment is to treat low blood oxygen levels (hypoxaemia) where the body’s cells are starved of oxygen, which can cause damage to vital organs which can lead to death. 

Key points: 

  • When prescribing oxygen, healthcare professionals should always specify a safe ‘target range’ of oxygen in the blood, which can then be monitored. This is designed to ensure that patients are not given too little, or too much oxygen which can result in greater illness and, in rare cases, even death.  
  • The guideline helps healthcare practitioners to recognise the characteristics of those groups of patients that need oxygen and recommends that past experience with oxygen in these patients should guide future prescribing. 
  • Clinicians and directors of services should recognise that oxygen is a drug, and should be prescribed in the same way that other drugs are prescribed i.e. dose, frequency of administration, date or time of starting and stopping.
  • Healthcare organisations should have a clear route of accountability for ensuring the safe use of oxygen, and a directorate level senior officer designated as the responsible person (or role).  

The BTS Guideline for Oxygen Use in Adults in Healthcare and Emergency Settings can be downloaded HERE

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