Oxygen Therapy

Some patients with unoperated cardiac conditions or those with ongoing problems may be prescribed oxygen to help improve the oxygen level (saturation) in the blood and reduce the workload on the heart.  Many of them use oxygen mainly overnight when it does not prohibit activity and this gives their body 'a boost' for the following day.

The NHS will generally supply oxygen from a concentrator which plugs into your normal electricity supply and an oxygen cylinder as a backup in case of a power cut. Small light weight cylinders are also available but these are generally only prescribed if it is considered vital for the patient to have oxygen available at all times.  There are also a number of specialist suppliers who can provide oxygen and equipment privately but these can be quite expensive.

Whatever system is used, the oxygen is delivered by a flexible plastic hose which connects to either a mask or a nasal cannula (two thin pieces of plastic tubing which go a little way up each nostril) worn by the patient.  The connecting hose is long enough to allow the patient to walk around the room and carry on with normal activities although for those using the oxygen only at night, the concentrator tends to be sited in the bedroom.

Oxygen Concentrators

The concentrator draws in air from the room where it is located and provides virtually pure oxygen whilst discharging the waste gases into the air.  It requires a free flow of air around it and of course there should be no smoking in the house for safety reasons.  In the case of a power cut an alarm sounds to alert you to the fact that the concentrator is not working and it will be serviced every three months by a specialist engineer to ensure it operates properly.  Power consumption of a concentrator is similar to that of a small fridge and theoretically the electricity cost involved will be calculated and you will be reimbursed for it.  In practice the system for reimbursement seems to vary in different areas but it is worth pursuing, especially if finances are a problem.

Oxygen Cylinders

You should also be given a backup oxygen cylinder with a regulator which you obtain on prescription from your local chemist.  These are quite large and heavy but can be transported around if you have someone strong to do it.  The length of time they lasts depends on the rate of oxygen flow the patient requires.

A more recent development are small light weight cylinders with regulators which can be used for getting out and about either when oxygen is constantly needed or as a safety measure.

Travelling with Oxygen

When patients who use oxygen take a flight they may well be advised by their cardiologist to have oxygen available on the flight.  This can be arranged with the airline but it needs to be sorted out well in advance.   Although airlines routinely carry oxygen in case of emergencies, oxygen provided like this for a passenger is extra to normal supplies and you may well be charged for it whether or not you use it.

If you are travelling in the UK or Europe you may also find it easier to arrange for an oxygen concentrator or oxygen cylinder to be available at your destination rather than trying to transport equipment from home which also requires agreement if the supplier.  Oxygen can be arranged for anywhere in the UK and most holiday destinations in Europe, cost varies depending on the location and it needs to be arranged at least two weeks in advance, preferably longer.

Contact the supplier who provides your oxygen to see what services they can help you with.