Background: The adherence to the prescribed oxygen therapy is difficult to obtain for patients on long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT). There is little information on the modalities of oxygen utilisation for patients on LTOT who are using liquid oxygen in real life.
Study objective: Evaluation of the behaviour and the knowledge regarding LTOT in a large group of patients mainly using liquid oxygen.
Design and setting: Questionnaire administered to consecutive outpatients on domiciliary LTOT for at least 6 months referring to one of 20 clinics throughout Italy. Blinded to this result, the physician who cared for the patient completed another questionnaire.
Results: We evaluated 1504 patients (mean age 71.6 years; males 64%; 74% suffering from COPD). Most respondents (93%) used liquid oxygen with mobile device. Fifteen per cent of patients had a prescribed length of oxygen therapy less than 15 h/day; 21% reported to practice oxygen for less than 15 h/day. Patients reported using oxygen for less hours than had been prescribed during the day at rest (P=0.02, k=0.80) during exercise (P=0.002, k=0.72) and at night (P=0.0036, k=0.77). There was no difference between the flow prescribed by the physician and that known and practised by the patient at rest or during sleep; during exercise the flow reported by patients was lower than that prescribed by the physician. Patients used in the night but not at rest or during exercise, a lower level of oxygen flow than what they knew had been prescribed. Fifty-five per cent of patients received indications to modify the oxygen flow in the various situations of life. Liquid oxygen was almost always useful to decrease breathlessness. Most (84%) patients possessed a mobile device, but only 40% declared they used it daily, 'shame' being indicated as the principal barrier. On the physicians' side, we found that the criteria used in prescribing did not always correspond to evidence-based recommendations.
Conclusion: The widespread use of liquid oxygen did not automatically assure optimal adherence to the prescribed treatment as regards times and modality of oxygen use. A better education of patients, relatives, and the general public, as well as increased self-assessment on the part of health caregivers would improve the practice of LTOT in Italy.