Oxygen in dying patients.

  1. My big question is, when patients are in there final days (no more meds, only morphine) and they are given o2 I know they commonly get 2l but is that maintaining them alive? What I want to know is if o2 comforts or prolongs life. If it does not prolong the life what is the oxygen used for? is it for when it comes down for them to final die and everything begins to shut down is the o2 easing them on their way to death? or is that o2 maintaining them alive throughout their last days?
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    8 Comments

  3. by   duskyjewel
    Honestly....many times the O2 is used for family comfort.
  4. by   Stephanie066
    I started my nursing career working night shift on a LTC unit..so although I am a relatively new nurse I have a pretty good amount of experience in caring for dying patients. To answer your question..It is mainly for comfort. O2 at 2L is not going to really prolong their life or the dying process, it is really just to make sure that the patient is not struggling to breath.
    For example- I had a patient who was actively dying and the patients family refused to allow me to place the O2 on their mother because they thought it was going to keep her alive longer and 'drag out the process' (their words not mine). They weren't very well educated medically speaking and they had genuinely good intentions-they didn't want their mom to suffer for any longer they necessary-and that sort of thing. Even after explaining that the O2 wouldnt keep her alive any longer they still refused. As the night progressed the patient continued to become more and more restless despite ATC roxanol and ativan. I finally convinced them to let me put the O2 on because they finally realized that she was restless/agitated because she was not getting enough oxygen. Within 20 mins after putting the O2 on the patient was resting comfortably-no more restlessness and she died peacefully 2 hours later.
    So, in short and in my opinion at least giving O2 to actively dying patients is really just to make sure that their last minutes/hours/days are not spent struggling to breath. Hope that helped!
  5. by   Esme12
    O2 per NC will not prevent the patient dying nor prolong the patients life. It is usually a request of the family feel they are providing comfort.

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  6. by   NurseP00kie
    It's a comfort measure.
  7. by   NuggetRN
    I was literally just having this conversation with the parent of one of my homecare clients. This is a comfort measure that will not prolong the patient's life
  8. by   MunoRN
    It used to be generally assumed that it was the oxygen that treats dyspnea, although for most patients that isn't the case and it's actually the sensation of airflow that helps alleviate dyspnea in the dying patient, specifically airflow as sensed by the fifth cranial nerve, which is why a fan blowing air on the face has been proven to be more effective in the typical end-of-life patient.
    Oxygen or air for palliation of breathlessness in advanced cancer
  9. by   sissiesmama
    Quote from duskyjewel
    Honestly....many times the O2 is used for family comfort.
    This!
  10. by   SierraBravo
    I agree with the above posts, O2 in a dying patient is more for family comfort than anything else. Remember, when someone is actively dying (i.e. they have hours to days), they will typically become unresponsive and start mouth breathing. So a nasal cannula is not going to do much of anything. More important is the use of a continuous morphine drip and managing secretions with either Atropine and/or glycopyrollate. Frequent Ativan is also indicated here for anxiety.

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