How do respiratory patients perceive oxygen therapy? A critical interpretative synthesis of the literature

Chron Respir Dis. 2014 Nov;11(4):209-28. doi: 10.1177/1479972314551561. Epub 2014 Sep 24.


Oxygen therapy is a common intervention in health care worldwide; yet, despite universal use, it is evident through poor practice that oxygen is often prescribed and administered injudiciously. It is proposed that possibly an influencing culture presides, whereby oxygen is often poorly understood and uncertainty regarding its use exists. It is unclear where the origins of this culture lie but exploring perceptions may enlighten the problem. A review of the literature was undertaken to establish what is already known about this elusive phenomenon. The paucity of any direct evidence regarding perceptions of oxygen directed the review to utilize a critical interpretative synthesis (CIS). The aim of this study was to explore how respiratory patients perceive oxygen therapy. A systematic search in Medline, Cinahl, Embase, British Nursing Index and PsychInfo yielded 1514 studies of which 42 were selected to consider the review question. The CIS allowed evidence from across studies to synthesize existing and new interpretations of data related to patients' perceptions of oxygen therapy. Synthetic constructs then informed the synthesizing arguments, namely positive - feeling safe, enabler and comforter; negative - fear, oxygen versus self, restriction and embarrassment; and impartiality - mixed blessings. The findings are divergent, and at times contradictory. There appears uncertainty among patients regarding the purpose and benefits of oxygen therapy, though an underlying faith in health-care professionals is apparent. This faith seems to foster acceptance of a life-changing therapy, despite the impact, burden and incomplete understanding. There is a clear need for further research regarding these elusive perceptions in order to improve clinical practice in respect of oxygen.

Keywords: Oxygen; chronic respiratory disease; critical interpretative synthesis; patients; perceptions; respiratory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Perception
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / psychology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / therapy*