Oxygen and COPD. Debunking the hypoxic drive theory.

In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), inflammatory changes impact their ability to breathe properly. Patients will eventually retain carbon dioxide (CO2) as their efforts to maintain normal CO2 levels proves difficult. Experts have long debated whether chronically elevated carbon dioxide levels affect how a patient handles oxygen. As a result, a theory developed that administering oxygen obliterated the drive to breathe.

The problem with the Hypoxic Drive Theory is that it’s a myth concocted on incomplete evidence and often elicits a controversial response, according to John Bottrell, RT, Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, and COPD/asthma expert for healthcentral.com.

For hypoxemic patients with COPD, most medical experts now recommend administering the lowest amount of oxygen needed to maintain SpO2 of 88% to 92%, according to Bottrell.

The Controversy of Hypoxic Drive Theory
In hypoxic drive, Bottrell told ADVANCE, the peripheral chemoreceptors located at the bifurcations of the aortic arteries and the aortic arch monitor partial pressure of arterial oxygen (PaO2). This drive only becomes active when the PaO2 is less than 60 mmHg. “This hypoxic response is far slower than signals sent by central chemoreceptors, and therefore the hypoxic drive has only a minor role in breathing,” he explained.

Read full article: Oxygen and COPD

Related article: Nursing and Respiratory Care

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