Standard Operating Procudure Questioned

The standard practice of administering oxygen to heart-attack patients needs further study

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

(RxWiki News) There is no direct evidence suggesting the standard practice of administering oxygen to patients during a heart attack is beneficial.

Therefore researchers who worked on a new Cochrane Systematic Review contend the practice of administering oxygen shouldn't be ruled out as a possible mortality risk.

More than 30 million people worldwide experience heart attack each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Heart attacks happen when the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart is obstructed. Oxygen is given to these patients to increase oxygenation of heart tissue, though there is scant evidence this intervention improves outcomes. Some evidence may even suggest the practice causes further damage, according to the review.

Researchers culled data from three trials in their study and found that, of the 387 patients involved, 14 died. The patients were either given oxygen or air to breath for 24 hours following onset of the heart attack. Of the 14 who died, almost three times as many had inhaled oxygen as opposed to air.

The researchers said that since the sample size was so small, this occurrence may have been due to chance, however. They maintain that there is not enough data to be certain.

Professor Tom Quinn, another of the researchers based at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK, said that it's important to conduct a large trial to make sure oxygen is not not causing harm to heart-attack patients. He said it is "truly amazing" cardiologists continue to employ the treatment without solid evidence.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 7, 2011
Last Updated:
January 10, 2011