Room fan could be just as effective as oxygen therapy in end-of-life care

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Oxygen therapy may be unnecessary for some patients receiving end-of-life palliative treatment, according to a new study.

Roughly half of palliative care patients nearing the end of life who are receiving oxygen therapy do not actually benefit from it, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center. Even for those who do benefit from oxygen therapy, researchers discovered that regular room air was just as effective as pure oxygen. The results of the study suggest that any air streams directed toward the nose offer relief from shortness of breath, and that in some cases, a room fan might even be as effective as an oxygen mask, researchers said.

The practice of providing oxygen to end-of-life patients is common, but not grounded in any scientific research into its effectiveness, researchers note. While oxygen therapy can certainly be beneficial, it is important to realize that effective alternatives do exists, researchers emphasized. The study appears in the Sept. 3 edition of the medical journal The Lancet.