Representatives from Luxfer Gas Cylinders joined doctors, clinicians, patients and experts from all areas of long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) at the sixth oxygen consensus conference in Denver, Colorado at the end of last month.

Conference attendees discussed problems confronting LTOT patients and developed action plans for addressing the problems. The five previous oxygen consensus conferences, which took place between 1986 and 2000, have stimulated development of oxygen standards and other improvements for oxygen therapy.

An estimated 14 to 16 million Americans suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and approximately ten percent require home oxygen therapy to treat chronically low oxygen levels in the blood.

Lack of proper oxygen intake can result in diminished brain function and, over time, can cause many of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s disease, including confusion and forgetfulness.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and one of the few chronic diseases with growing prevalence and mortality rates. The disease claims more than 120,000 lives annually. About 85 to 90 percent of COPD cases develop as a direct result of cigarette smoking. Other factors include environmental pollution and genetic predisposition to the disease.

Obstacles to effective treatment of COPD include reductions in Medicare coverage of oxygen for LTOT, outdated research and lack of doctor and patient education.

Existing medications seldom reverse the effects of COPD. Long-term oxygen therapy, when properly prescribed and maintained, is the only non-surgical therapy clinically proven to extend the lives of patients with COPD and low blood-oxygen levels. In addition to prolonging life, LTOT improves the quality of life for many patients who use oxygen-dispensing units in homes and vehicles.