The first national guideline for the emergency use of oxygen in adults has been published. The guidelines, developed by a working party and led by the British Thoracic Society (BTS), are intended to simplify oxygen delivery and better protect acutely ill patients.
Until now, most healthcare professionals have followed their own institution's customary practice when administering oxygen therapy, and it is this lack of consistency and clear guidance that the BTS' guideline aims to correct.
Oxygen is one of the most widely used drugs, and is used across the whole range of healthcare specialities. Oxygen is an important drug because hypoxaemia can cause death during many medical emergencies and it is essential to protect patients from this risk by the rapid recognition of acute illness and hypoxaemia followed by the immediate provision of oxygen to hypoxaemic and critically ill patients.
The guideline recommends that oxygen is administered to patients whose oxygen saturation falls below the target saturation ranges (94–98% for most acutely ill patients and 88–92% for those at risk of type 2 respiratory failure with raised carbon dioxide level in the blood), and that those who administer oxygen therapy should monitor the patient and keep within those specified target saturation ranges.
Dr Ronan O'Driscoll, of the Department of Respiratory Medicine, Salford Royal University Hospital, one of the respiratory physicians who led the development of the guideline, said: "The development of this landmark guideline is a vital step in the recognition of oxygen as a carefully targeted therapeutic agent.
"For the first time, delivery of oxygen will be controlled and monitored in accordance with the best available evidence, allowing patients to receive better, more effective care."