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Arch Intern Med. 1996 Sep 9;156(16):1797-801.

Multidisciplinary education for oxygen prescription. A continuous quality improvement study.

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Department of Medicine, McMaster University Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton, Ontario.



To examine the oxygen-prescribing habits and monitoring patterns on a medical teaching ward and to review the literature in this area.


A continuous quality improvement study.


A 29-bed medical clinical teaching unit in a 453-bed university-affiliated tertiary care hospital.


We studied 50 consecutive patients who required 79 oxygen treatments.


We recorded the indication, prescriber, documentation of prior hypoxemia, method and mode of delivery, oxygenation assessment after initiation, and duration of therapy.


Patients received oxygen for a mean (+/- SD) of 4.7 +/- 4.5 days. Oxygen therapy was ordered on a continuous basis 60.3% of the time. It was ordered by house staff in 54 cases (68%); nurses initiated oxygen therapy in 14 cases (18%) but discontinued it more often than any other health care workers. The most common indications for starting oxygen therapy were dyspnea and tachypnea. In 15 patients (30%), none of the American College of Chest Physicians and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute criteria for starting oxygen therapy were fulfilled. For 16 patients (32%), arterial blood gas values were measured within 1 hour of oxygen administration; for 29 patients, oximetry was performed. For 9 patients (18%), no testing of adequate oxygenation was performed within 24 hours. Oxygenation status was assessed daily for 23 patients (46%).


Oxygen prescribing and monitoring practices were suboptimal on our busy medical teaching ward. Practice guidelines based on best available evidence are needed to increase the efficiency of oxygen use. A physiologic, multidisciplinary educational focus on the benefits and hazards of supplemental oxygen is necessary, and randomized trials of such educational interventions should be conducted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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