Supplemental oxygen in patients with stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: evidence from Nocturnal Oxygen Treatment Trial to Long-term Oxygen Treatment Trial

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Purpose of review

Oxygen therapy was the first treatment shown to prolong life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and has been joined by lung volume reduction surgery in selected patients with emphysema, smoking cessation, and potentially noninvasive ventilation in chronic hypercapneic respiratory failure. Although there is consensus around the survival-enhancing effect of supplemental oxygen (SupplO2) for patients with chronic severe hypoxemia at rest, the impact of SupplO2 for COPD patients with moderate hypoxemia and exertional desaturation had been less clear.

Recent findings

The recently published Long-term Oxygen Treatment Trial (LOTT) showed no benefit of SupplO2 for the composite outcome of survival and all-cause hospitalizations, or for component outcomes, severe COPD exacerbations, or quality of life in COPD patients with moderate resting hypoxemia or room air normoxemia with exercise desaturation.


Results of the LOTT challenge the practice of prescribing SupplO2 for patients with COPD and moderate resting hypoxemia or isolated exertional desaturation. In the context that LOTT may not have recruited patients for whom SupplO2 conferred subjective benefit, there may be a role for short-term trials of SupplO2 with assessment of subjective benefit in such patients.

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