What is oxygen therapy?

Oxygen is a gas that your body needs to survive. Normally, your lungs absorb oxygen from the air. There are a number of physical conditions, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema and bronchitis, which may prevent you from breathing enough oxygen. This can keep your body from absorbing the essential oxygen it needs. Oxygen therapy may be administered during a temporary period of distress, or may be used continuously for chronic conditions. Oxygen is delivered through a tube that may be attached to a nasal cannula, a face mask or a small tube inserted into your windpipe.

A nasal cannula fits on the end of the oxygen tube and has two prongs that are placed into your nostrils. A face mask fits over your nose and mouth. There are various types of masks: “simple” masks; controlled-entrainment (high-flow masks, delivering specific levels of oxygen) called venturi masks; or “rebreather” masks. The latter can be partial (you can inhale some of the previously exhaled air from a reservoir) or non-rebreather (you cannot inhale any of the previously exhaled air from a reservoir) masks.  In transtracheal oxygen therapy, oxygen is delivered directly to your windpipe through a tube attached to a needle or small incision in the front of your neck.

Compressed oxygen gas and liquid oxygen comes in tanks or cylinders, which may be stationary or may come in portable units. Oxygen may also be generated by an oxygen concentrator. Most concentrator units are stationary, but some are portable.



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