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Oxygen Administration
Oxygen Administration

Overview of Supplemental Oxygen

On this page:Monitoring


  • Supplemental oxygen is a drug and should be used rationally for specific indications, at the lowest concentration and for the shortest time possible.
    • Indications for Supplemental Oxygen

    • Hypoxia
    • Cardiac or respiratory arrest
    • Acute respiratory distress
    • Specific conditions - pulmonary hypertension, myocardial infarction, pneumothorax
  • Supplemental oxygen is not indicated for patients with breathlessness.
    • Complications of Supplemental Oxygen

    • Hypoventilation - due to suppression of the hypoxic respiratory drive; particularly in patients with COPD
    • Absorption atelectasis (due to washout of nitrogen, which noramlly splints the airways open)
    • Oxygen toxicity - damage to upper or lower airways due to oxygen radical formation


  • Oxygen saturations should be used to guide supplemental oxygen administration. The target oxygen saturation for most patients should be 92-96%, while in patients with chronic respiratory failure this target should be 88-92%.
  • Arterial blood gases are also used to guide oxygen therapy in certain patients.
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