Acute care: Treatment with oxygen
In the second part of our series about acute care medicine, Nicola Cooper explains the principles behind treatment with oxygen
Oxygen is one of the most important drugs you will ever use, but it is poorly prescribed by medical staff. In 2000, a colleague and I did two surveys of treatment with oxygen. The first looked at prescriptions of oxygen in postoperative patients in a large district hospital. We found that there were many ways used to prescribe oxygen and that the prescriptions were rarely followed. The second study surveyed 50 medical and nursing staff working in acute care. We asked them to name different oxygen masks and to say how much oxygen each delivered. We then asked them to decide which mask was most appropriate for a given clinical situation (see quiz).
Patients need oxygen when they have hypoxaemia, acute hypotension, or respiratory distress; when they have trauma or other acute illness, carbon monoxide poisoning, or severe anaemia; during the perioperative period; and when they have taken drugs that