Acute oxygen in patients with sleep apnea and COPD

Chest. 1986 Jan;89(1):30-8. doi: 10.1378/chest.89.1.30.


Nocturnal oxygen administered to patients with disordered breathing ameliorates hypoxemia. As a result, an important chemical stimulus to arousal is diminished. This could cause prolongation of disordered breathing events, worsen respiratory acidosis, and induce potentially harmful cardiac arrhythmias. The presence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) could further aggravate the situation since such patients may have depressed hypercarbic responses. To test this hypothesis, 20 obese men with sleep apnea and COPD were studied polysomnographically on two nights receiving air on one or oxygen at 4 L/min on the other. Supplemental oxygen increased mean DOB event duration from 25.7 to 31.4 seconds (p less than 0.001), increased end apneic PCO2 from 52.8 to 62.3 mm Hg (p less than 0.025), and decreased mean end apneic pH from 7.34 to 7.28 (p less than 0.001). At the same time, it improved mean sleeping and end-apneic oxygen saturation. The number of ventricular extra-systoles (PVCs) per minute of sleep showed small increases in three subjects while breathing oxygen. Complex ventricular arrhythmias were unaffected by oxygen in five subjects. Oxygen eliminated atrioventricular block in two subjects. We conclude that nocturnal supplemental oxygen does not increase ventricular arrhythmias in the majority of patients with COPD and coexisting disordered breathing events. While the clinical significance of an oxygen associated increase in ventricular extrasystoles in three subjects is unclear, nocturnal monitoring by telemetry or ambulatory recorder should be sufficient to detect such patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Carbon Dioxide / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Lung Volume Measurements
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / adverse effects
  • Oxygen / therapeutic use*
  • Respiration
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Oxygen