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Home Oxygen Therapy Increases Risk of Fire, Burns For COPD Patients: Study

Patients undergoing oxygen therapy in their homes due to breathing problems may be more than twice as likely to face fire and burn injuries, according to the findings of a new study. 

In a study published last week in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) reviewed the number of fire and burn injuries that occur among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who have home oxygen therapy equipment. About 15 to 25% of them are smokers, which appears to increase the risk even more, according to findings.

“The benefits of oxygen in COPD patients outweigh the modest risks of burn injury,” Dr. Alexander Duarte, senior author and a UTMB professor, said in a press release by the University. “However, health care professionals should educate and counsel patients and their families on the potential risk of burn injury and attempt to decrease this risk before prescribing home therapy.”

Researchers gathered data on patients with COPD from Medicare data from 2001 to 2010. The study identified 2,055 patients who had no record of burn injury with 685 COPD patients that did.

The study found that COPD patients who had been prescribed oxygen therapy within the prior 90 days were more than twice as likely to suffer a burn injury. Their risk of death was 10 times higher. They determined that 1,421 patients with COPD had to be prescribed oxygen therapy for one patient to be harmed.

Despite the risk of fires and burns with home oxygen therapy, researchers still considered the risks to be modest. However, the authors caution that when smoking is added to the mix, the risks are increased considerably.

Other risk factors appeared to include low socioeconomic status, being male, and having three or more other medical conditions.

“Physicians prescribing oxygen to patients with COPD struggle to balance the benefits (in the form of improved survival and quality of life) with the risk of fire hazard in patients who continue to smoke,” researchers concluded. “In some countries, oxygen is not prescribed to current smokers, but in the United States there is no clear policy regarding the prescription of oxygen to an actively smoking individual.”

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