Does palliative home oxygen improve dyspnoea? A consecutive cohort study

Palliat Med. 2009 Jun;23(4):309-16. doi: 10.1177/0269216309104058. Epub 2009 Mar 20.


Palliative oxygen for refractory dyspnoea is frequently prescribed, even when the criteria for long-term home oxygen (based on survival, rather than the symptomatic relief of breathlessness) are not met. Little is known about how palliative home oxygen affects symptomatic breathlessness. A 4-year consecutive cohort from a regional community palliative care service in Western Australia was used to compare baseline breathlessness before oxygen therapy with dyspnoea sub-scales on the symptom assessment scores (SAS; 0-10) 1 and 2 weeks after the introduction of oxygen. Demographic and clinical characteristics of people who responded were included in a multi-variable logistic regression model. Of the study population (n = 5862), 21.1% (n = 1239) were prescribed oxygen of whom 413 had before and after data that could be included in this analysis. The mean breathlessness before home oxygen was 5.3 (SD 2.5; median 5; range 0-10). There were no significant differences overall at 1 or 2 weeks (P = 0.28) nor for any diagnostic sub-groups. One hundred and fifty people (of 413) had more than a 20% improvement in mean dyspnoea scores. In multi-factor analysis, neither the underlying diagnosis causing breathlessness nor the demographic factors predicted responders at 1 week. Oxygen prescribed on the basis of breathlessness alone across a large population predominantly with cancer does not improve breathlessness for the majority of people. Prospective randomised trials in people with cancer and non-cancer are needed to determine whether oxygen can reduce the progression of breathlessness compared to a control arm.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dyspnea / psychology
  • Dyspnea / therapy*
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Home Care Services*
  • Hospices
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / therapeutic use*
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / complications
  • Western Australia
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen