Oxygen therapy is the administration of oxygen as a medical intervention, which can be for a variety of purposes in both chronic and acute patient care.
Oxygen is essential for cell metabolism, and in turn, tissue oxygenation is essential for all normal physiological functions.
Room air only contains 21% oxygen, and increasing the fraction of oxygen in the breathing gas increases the amount of oxygen in the blood.
It is often only required to raise the fraction of oxygen delivered to 30–35% and this is done by use of a nasal cannula.
When 100% oxygen is needed, it may be delivered via a tight-fitting face mask, or by supplying 100% oxygen to an incubator in the case of infants.
Oxygen can be administered in other ways, including specific treatments at raised air pressure, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
High blood and tissue levels of oxygen can be helpful or damaging, depending on circumstances and oxygen therapy should be used to benefit the patient by increasing the supply of oxygen to the lungs and thereby increasing the availability of oxygen to the body tissues, especially when the patient is suffering from hypoxia and/or hypoxaemia.
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Last Updated: Feb 1, 2011