Oxygen and ICUs

February 1, 2021

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Anchor lead: Are higher or lower oxygen levels best in patients with respiratory failure? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS is one complication of severe Covid-19 disease, with a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating that lower oxygen levels achieve about the same outcomes as higher ones when patients must be on ventilators. Brian Garibaldi, a critical care medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, comments.

Garibaldi: The data goes back and forth on where we should actually target oxygen levels. The reason it’s important is that oxygen itself can be toxic. If we can find that ideal point at which we know we can minimize the amount of oxygen exposure by lowering the amount of oxygen levels that we target in patients that could be a big win. I think this latest study suggests that we probably can safely target slightly lower levels of oxygen in patients with ARDS, but the target of where we should go is not entirely clear.  :31

Garibaldi notes that using less oxygen in the ICU is unlikely to alleviate oxygen shortages in areas of the country that are experiencing them, however. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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