Long-Term Oxygen Therapy for COPD Patients at Home

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that makes breathing difficult. Severe COPD can impair oxygen supply to the body’s vital organs.

People with severe COPD may require oxygen therapy to increase their blood oxygen levels. This therapy uses an oxygen tank to deliver additional oxygen through a face mask or a tube in the nose or mouth. Oxygen therapy can help people with COPD to perform daily tasks with fewer symptoms, sleep with fewer disruptions, protect their heart and lungs, and live longer.

Doctors can administer oxygen therapy in a hospital or the patient’s home. COPD patients at home require portable oxygen tanks, which are usually metal cylinders that contain compressed oxygen.

Long-term oxygen therapy in COPD is usually supervised by a pulmonologist (lung specialist) through a home-care respiratory program. The program often involves intensive patient and caregiver education at the start of the long-term oxygen therapy. This is followed by an extended maintenance program that aims to help the patient adhere to the oxygen therapy regimen at home.

A recent study used a simulation model to compare two strategies after the intensive education intervention: enrollment and no enrollment in a maintenance program. It found that over a 5-year period, an extended home-visit program may prevent 9 deaths and provide an additional 39 years of life and 24 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). Compared with usual care (no enrollment in the maintenance program), the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was US$13,197 per QALYs gained. QALYs are calculated by estimating the total life-years lost due to a disease or gained by a treatment.

The study concluded that an extended home-visit program to maintain or improve adherence to long-term oxygen therapy in patients with COPD would most likely be cost-effective.

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