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Oxygen Therapy No Benefit to Patients with Moderate COPD


Author: Richard E. KannerRichard E. Kanner., M.D.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of progressive lung conditions – primarily emphysema and chronic bronchitis – that make it continually harder to breathe and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Health care providers know that giving supplemental oxygen to people with severe forms of COPD reduces mortality, but whether that therapy would help people with stable, moderate forms of the disease has been an open question. Medicare spends about $2 billon for oxygen therapy and wished to know if this therapy benefited those patients with COPD and moderate oxygen desaturation.

A new, randomized trial of people with stable moderate forms of COPD concluded that receiving supplemental oxygen therapy made no difference in quality of life, lung function or ability to walk in those who received the therapy compared with those who did not. The study, called the Long-Term Oxygen Treatment Trial Research Group (LOTT), conducted at 42 U.S. medical centers, also found that receiving supplemental oxygen therapy did not delay how soon patients died or were first hospitalized compared with those who didn’t receive oxygen.

LOTT included 738 COPD patients, with 368 receiving oxygen therapy and 370 not receiving it. The group that received oxygen was divided into three subgroups based on whether their oxygen saturation levels were lower when resting, exercising or both. Among the subgroups, 220 patients received oxygen 24 hours a day and 148 received it while sleeping and exercising. Study participants were tracked from one to six years.