Is using oxygen contraindicated in patients with COPD?
In COPD a person breaths in air but it gets stuck in their lungs and can't exhale all the air from their lungs. This results in the barrel-chested look of COPD patients. Because the person can't fully exhale, there is a build-up of CO2 in the lungs. The drive for a person to breath is low CO2 levels which stimulates the body to intake more oxygen/air. If you give a person with COPD oxygen, more CO2 will build up in their body further decreasing their respiratory rate. It is not contra indicated but should be used with caution. In healthy people, high levels of carbon dioxide is what triggers respiration (to help get rid of the carbon dioxide), but because people with COPD are used to having high levels of carbon dioxide their bodies become immune to it and respiration in this case is triggered by low levels of oxygen. Therefore if you give a person with COPD high concentrations of oxygen, you are removing their trigger to breath, leading to respiratory depression or even arrest (stop breathing completely). This is known as hypoxic drive (hypoxia means low levels of oxygen)