Lung Disease Leads to Death from Other Causes

Increased risk of death from non-respiratory diseases for COPD patients on long-term oxygen therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Patients who are undergoing long-term oxygen therapy to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have an increased risk of death from other non-respiratory health complications.

COPD is a lung disease that clogs airways, causing breathing difficulties. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD is the fourth leading cause of death and affects approximately 600 million people worldwide.

Long-term oxygen therapy is a therapy to relieve the breathlessness. that sufferers of COPD have to deal with on a daily basis. The therapy involves delivering oxygen to the airway of a COPD patient through nasa cannula tubing or a face mask.

Magnus P. Ekström, M.D., a respiratory medicine physician and researcher at Blekinge Hospital in Sweden, and colleagues studied 7,628 COPD patients who began long-term oxygen therapy  between January 1987 and December 2004. During that 17 year period, a total of 5,497 patients died. The researchers investigated trends in the causes of death.

Using the Swedish Causes of Death Register, the researchers found that COPD patients face a lower risk of death from respiratory disease and lung cancer disease. However, each year throughout the study, patients' risk of dying from circulatory disease and digestive organ disease grew by 2.8 percent and 7.8 percent respectively. Throughout the course of all 17 years, the likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease grew by 61.5 percent. The overall likelihood of death grew each year by 1.6 percent.

These increased risks of disease and death are likely attributable to the increase in age of most COPD patients. As patients grow older, they have an increased risk of coexisting diseases. Their lung function, on the other hand, is generally better because of decreased levels of smoking and exposure to tobacco.

According to Dr. Ekström, these findings suggest the need for improved monitoring and treatment of all these secondary health complications. To do so would help decrease the risk of mortality in COPD patients.

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Review Date: 
January 20, 2011
Last Updated:
January 21, 2011