Emergency MedicineEthics in HealthcarePaediatricsSMACCEmergency Interventions: The use of Oxygen

Emergency Interventions: The use of Oxygen

Kathryn Maitland describes the challenges faced with oxygen therapy as an emergency intervention in critical illness in African children.

Where Kathryn works, in East Africa, there is no access to intensive care. Caring for critically ill children is all done in the Emergency Department.

70% of the global burden of disease and deaths from pneumonia occurs in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO has published guidelines as to what classifies as pneumonia, severe pneumonia, and very severe pneumonia.

These classifications rely on clinical signs. However, Kathryn in her research has discovered that these classifications are rarely correlated with the actual underlying disease process.

Clinical signs are non-specific for the diagnosis of pneumonia. Oxygen is recommended for severe and very severe pneumonia.

This has led to calls to prioritise oxygen delivery in African hospitals. However, it has not led to change from a health department or funding viewpoint.

There are also oxygen delivery practicalities to consider. Often there is only one source of oxygen on a ward (if at all) with patients clustered around it.

The production of Oxygen may only happen in a few places.

Poor cylinder quality leads to leaks and therefore, low supply.

Concentrators are useful however they need regular servicing. They also rely on power, and in a region that experiences regular power outages, this can be problematic. When the power goes off, there is no oxygen available.

Kathryn asks – do all children actually need oxygen? There is still however a hidden burden of hypoxia.

Outside of Africa, Kathryn discusses the current state of equipoise on oxygen therapy.

Moreover, oxygen can be harmful if given inappropriately. This leads to concerns more broadly on the harms of oxygen therapy.

Kathryn concludes her talk by looking to the future. She discusses ongoing research and the implications for future practice in resource poor settings, and indeed the world.

Emergency Interventions: The use of Oxygen

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Kathryn Maitland