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Chest. 1980 Nov;78(5):682-5.

The effect of low flow oxygen on sleep-disordered breathing and oxygen desaturation. A study of patients with chronic obstructive lung disease.


Oxygen desaturation occurs during sleep in many patients with chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD) and is often caused by sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). Nocturnal oxygen therapy should improve nighttime hypoxemia, but might also worsen SDB. Using standard polysomnographic techniques, we evaluated the frequency and duration of oxygen desaturation and SDB during sleep in 11 patients with stable COLD. During half of the night the patients breathed air through a nasal cannula and during the other half of the night they breathed oxygen at 2 liters per minute. Five patients had arterial lines inserted for determination of arterial blood gas levels during periods of SDB or desaturation. The ten men and one woman slept 70 minutes (52 percent of time in bed) while on air and 111 minutes (80 percent of time in bed) while on oxygen (p < 0.001). Oxygen therapy reduced the number of episodes of desaturation per hour and the time spent in desaturation. However, there was no difference between air and oxygen in episodes of SDB per hour, the duration of episodes of SDB, baseline sleeping PaCO2 or PaCO2 during episodes of desaturation or SDB. Therefore, in most patients with stable COLD, administration of oxygen at 2 liters per minute improves oxygenation, prolongs sleep, but does not adversely affect SDB.

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