Treating Dyspnea: Is Oxygen Therapy the Best Option for All Patients?

Med Clin North Am. 2016 Sep;100(5):1123-30. doi: 10.1016/j.mcna.2016.04.018.


The high prevalence of dyspnea at the end of life carries with it significant health and economic burden. Given the complex mechanism of dyspnea, management should be tailored to the individual patient experience and the underlying disease process. No clear role for supplemental oxygen has been established in the treatment of dyspnea in patients without no hypoxemia, and providers should consider the negative effects of oxygen supplementation. Symptom control with medications, exercise, behavioral therapy, treatment of associated anxiety, and the use of fans may be more effective and less costly than oxygen therapy. Further research is needed in the assessment and treatment of this symptom to more effectively treat patients.

Keywords: Breathlessness; Dyspnea; End-of-life care; Hypoxia; Palliative care; Supplemental oxygen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy*
  • Quality of Life