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Determining a safe upper limit of oxygen supplementation for adult patients: a systematic review

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OBJECTIVE: This systematic review aimed to describe the connection between the inspired oxygen fraction and pulmonary complications in adult patients, with the objective of determining a safe upper limit of oxygen supplementation.

METHODS: MEDLINE and Embase were systematically searched in August 2019 (updated July 2020) for studies fulfilling the following criteria: intubated adult patients (Population); high fractions of oxygen (Intervention) versus low fractions of (Comparison); atelectasis, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), pneumonia and/or duration of mechanical ventilation (Outcome); original studies both observational and interventional (Studies). Screening, data extraction and risk of bias assessment was done by two independent reviewers.

RESULTS: Out of 6120 records assessed for eligibility, 12 were included. Seven studies were conducted in the emergency setting, and five studies included patients undergoing elective surgery. Eight studies reported data on atelectasis, two on ARDS, four on pneumonia and two on duration of mechanical ventilation. There was a non-significant increased risk of atelectasis if an oxygen fraction of 0.8 or above was used, relative risk (RR): 1.37 (95% CI 0.95 to 1.96). One study showed an almost threefold higher risk of pneumonia in the high oxygen fraction group (RR: 2.83 (95% CI 2.25 to 3.56)). The two studies reporting ARDS and the two studies with data on mechanical ventilation showed no association with oxygen fraction. Four studies had a high risk of bias in one domain.

CONCLUSIONS: In this systematic review, we found inadequate evidence to identify a safe upper dosage of oxygen, but the identified studies suggest a benefit of keeping inspiratory oxygen fraction below 0.8 with regard to formation of atelectases.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere045057
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)e045057
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021

    Research areas

  • Adult, Humans, Oxygen, Oxygen Inhalation Therapy, Pneumonia, Respiration, Artificial, Respiratory Distress Syndrome/therapy, adult anaesthesia, adult intensive & critical care, respiratory physiology, respiratory medicine (see thoracic medicine)

ID: 67020913