The term oxygen therapy refers to the inhalation or breathing in of oxygen. Oxygen is an element that reacts with carbohydrates to form energy during the process of aerobic respiration, and is thus considered essential for carrying out metabolic processes that sustain human life.
Oxygen therapy is administered in two ways. The first method is called medical oxygen therapy, in which the air pressure of the oxygen administered to the patient is the same as the air pressure surrounding the patient. Medical oxygen therapy may be given in almost any setting. The second method, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, involves the administration of oxygen at a higher air pressure than that surrounding the patient, and must be administered in a special chamber. In both methods, the oxygen is inhaled.
Oxygen therapy is used for a variety of medical purposes, in order to increase the availability of oxygen to body tissues. The concentration of oxygen may vary from 21% (identical to that in air) to 100%. Oxygen is used as a therapy for healthy patients as well as a form of treatment for patients with medical disorders and illnesses. Oxygen is delivered using a variety of devices.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved oxygen therapy as a treatment for a number of conditions, in both emergency and non-emergency circumstances, including non-healing wounds (post-surgical or diabetic), radiation induced soft tissue death and osteonecrosis (death of bone tissue), flesh eating bacteria, carbon monoxide poisoning, decompression sickness, acute arterial ischemia (crush injury, compartment syndrome), compromised skin grafts or flaps, severe infection by anaerobic bacteria (such as gas gangrene), air or gas embolism, and severe uncorrected anemia (low red blood cell count resulting in fatigue and weakness) when blood transfusion is not available (not available or blood transfusion forbidden for religious reasons).
Oxygen therapy is considered the standard treatment for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in order to provide breathing assistance for patients.
Oxygen therapy may be administered for one session only, or it may be used daily over long periods of time. Based on the medical condition requiring oxygen therapy, a healthcare provider determines how long a patient should receive oxygen therapy.
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