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Hyperoxia in mechanically ventilated patients


Supplemental oxygen is part of the supportive treatment of hypoxaemic respiratory failure. Prolonged exposure to high fractions of inspired oxygen (FiO2) has been shown to be injurious to the lung in vitro [1]. The optimal paO2 in critical illness has not been established but the clinical impression is that patients are frequently exposed to a higher FiO2 than is necessary. The aim of this study was to investigate current oxygen treatment in patients undergoing prolonged mechanical ventilation and determine whether this resulted in exposure to a higher FiO2 than that required to adequately oxygenate haemoglobin (SaO2 >95%).


Indices of oxygenation were collected for 30 patients requiring mechanical ventilation >2 days. Data were collected 4-hourly for 48 hours. The PaO2:FiO2 ratio was determined for each data point and used to model the theoretical FiO2 required to maintain an SaO2 of 95% (paO2 = 10.7 kPa).


The results are shown in Figure 1. Data are expressed as medians (IQR). The median observed FiO2 was 0.4 throughout the study whereas the median FiO2, calculated to maintain an SaO2 of 95%, was 0.3.

Figure 1
figure 1



Our data demonstrate that critically ill patients may be exposed to a higher FiO2 than that required to maintain adequate oxygenation. Further, these results highlight an area of ICU care that has received little study, with no published clinical trials examining the effect of FiO2 on outcome.


  1. McKechnie S: The effect of hyperoxia on alveolar epithelial injury and repair. J Intensive Care Soc 2008, 9: 94.

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Bolton, S., Pugh, E., Hay, A. et al. Hyperoxia in mechanically ventilated patients. Crit Care 13 (Suppl 1), P34 (2009).

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