When oxygen levels in the bloodstream are inadequate, supplemental oxygen can be used as a welcomed treatment for the relief of breathlessness. However oxygen insufficiency has to be determined and there are three measurements required. An appointment for oxygen assessment can be organised, which takes about one hour to complete.
Oxygen can be obtained through a government-sponsored program if the deficiency is severe enough or alternatively via prescription through a community retailer/provider. Oxygen supplies can be in the form of small portable cylinders, larger cylinders that can be attached to 4 pointed frames or put onto wheels, and oxygen machines – the size of a rubbish bin which draws in room air, producing up to 5 litres of oxygen per minute, utilising electricity through a standard electrical point.
Full lung function tests will initially be taken, which take 15 – 20 minutes. Secondly, an arterial blood gas analysis of the actual level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream is undertaken, using a miniature needle to sample arterial blood directly out of the radial or brachial artery. Thirdly, an oxygen walk test is performed, where you are asked to walk at your own pace with and without the use of oxygen.
If oxygen deficiency is found to be severe enough to warrant government sponsorship, standard forms are completed and submitted to the regulatory authority. An approval notification is generally received at least two weeks following. However, oxygen can be prescribed immediately and obtained through a community retailer/provider, with testing and paperwork performed at a later date.
For many people with respiratory illness, the lack of oxygen is present at night but not during the day, and for this a sleep test is organised to measure oxygen levels during the time of sleep. If two thirds of the night is spent with oxygen deficiency, this also qualifies for the supply of nocturnal oxygen through the government program.