Oxygen Therapy: Variable vs Fixed Performance Devices

Oxygen is probably the most used and misused drug in a hospital. The purpose of oxygen therapy is to restore the PaO2 or SpO2 to a safe level for that patient. One of the major issues with targeted oxygen therapy is the problem of peak inspiratory flow.

During peak inspiration the FiO2 must be constant. That means that flow delivery must meet flow demand. Oxygen therapy can be delivered with variable or fixed performance devices. Variable performance devices include nasal cannula and simple (“Hudson”) facemasks. In both cases oxygen and air are blended in or near the airway. Nasal cannula are remarkably efficient and can deliver low inspired oxygen concentrations. Due to issues with dead space and rebreathing, simple facemasks are unreliable below 35% (5L). Both devices struggle where there is rapid breathing, particularly with large tidal volumes.

Venturi devices, which are really jets use a narrow injection port to entrain and blend oxygen and air proximal to the facemask. They are more precise but less efficient (in terms of total flow) than variable performance devices. Performance is remarkably robust between 24% and 40% inspired oxygen. They perform less well with rapid deep breathing particularly at high FiO2 levels. Non rebreather facemasks use a reservoir to store fresh gas during expiration and facilitate the delivery of FiO2 of approximately 80% with 10 to 15 liters of flow. As such they are highly efficient, although unreliable and non titratable. These devices can be used with modest oxygen flows for transporting hypoxic patients, but are short term remedies. @ccmtutorials http://www.ccmtutorials.org