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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What does oxygen treatment entail for someone with COPD?

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    Dr Peter Solin

    Respiratory & Sleep Medicine Physician

    Dr Peter Solin is a highly trained authority in sleep disorders medicine and respiratory medicine, having graduated from Melbourne University in 1987 and undertaken specialist … View Profile

    Oxygen is usually offered to people when their own levels of blood oxygen begin to drop to a point that can be considered dangerous or very unhealthy. There are three ways of testing for low oxygen, and these involve a sampling of blood from a pulsating artery such as at the wrist, or secondly a walking test to see if oxygen remains adequate upon walking, and thirdly an overnight sleep test to determine whether oxygen drops substantially at night.

    Depending on these three situations, oxygen can be offered via small cylinders, or a device called a concentrator. There is a length of tubing which ends in a nasal cannula/nasal prongs which sit just at the entry to your nostrils, and deliver the oxygen exactly where it's needed.

    Small cylinders are replaced when they are empty, and can be attached to a wheeled frame, or can come as an over the shoulder kit which you carry. This is used for people who drop their oxygen when they walk.

    A concentrator is usually the size of a rubbish bin, which sits in the corner of your room plugged into electrical power, and generates oxygen from the air in the room. This is used for people who have low oxygen at rest. It is also used for people to sleep with if they have low oxygen overnight during sleep.

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