Oxygen Therapy for Heart Failure

Browse By All Topics


Oxygen Therapy for Heart Failure


Oxygen that may be supplied by:

  • Oxygen concentrators
  • Liquid-oxygen devices
  • Oxygen-gas cylinders (also called tanks)

How It Works

Oxygen therapy is a way to get more oxygen into your lungs and bloodstream. It is sometimes used for people who have diseases that make it hard to breathe, such as heart failure. Oxygen therapy can make it easier to breathe. And it can reduce the heart's workload.

Some people need extra oxygen all the time. Others need it from time to time throughout the day or overnight. A doctor will prescribe how much oxygen you need, based on blood tests. He or she will tell you how much oxygen to use per minute (the flow rate) and how often to use it.

To breathe the oxygen, most people use a nasal cannula (say "KAN-yuh-luh"). This is a thin tube with two prongs that fit just inside your nose. Children and people who need a lot of oxygen may need to use a mask that fits over the nose and mouth.

You don't have to stay at home or in a hospital to use oxygen. Oxygen systems are portable. You can use them while you do your daily tasks.

Why It Is Used

Your doctor will determine how much oxygen you need with a blood test called arterial blood gas and another test called oximetry. These tests measure the levels of oxygen in the blood.

Long-term oxygen therapy is given to people with heart failure who have low levels of oxygen in their blood. It is given to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood to provide for the body's needs.

Oxygen therapy can decrease shortness of breath and allow you to do more.

How Well It Works

Oxygen therapy helps reduce the heart's workload. In heart failure, the heart does not pump as effectively as it should and does not meet the body's needs for oxygen. Oxygen therapy helps compensate by increasing the amount of oxygen delivered to the body's tissues.

Home oxygen therapy can help decrease shortness of breath and increase your capacity to exercise.

Side Effects

In general, there are no adverse effects from oxygen treatment. But oxygen is a fire hazard. It is important to follow safety measures to keep you and your family safe. Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes, open flames, or flammable substances.

Your doctor will set the flow rate per minute to give you the right amount of oxygen. Don't change the flow rate unless your doctor tells you. Higher flow rates usually do not help and can increase the risk of harmful carbon dioxide buildup in the blood, especially in people who also have lung disease.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes, open flames, or flammable products. If you or those who care for you smoke, be sure to consider oxygen therapy very carefully because of the danger of fire or explosion.

For information on safety, hygiene, and travel, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Oxygen Therapy: Using Oxygen at Home.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical ReviewerMargaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy
Last RevisedApril 26, 2012

Last Revised: April 26, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use.

How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.