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Palliative Oxygen for the Relief of Breathlessness

This study has been completed.
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Cancer Council Tasmania
Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life, USA
Flinders Medical Research Institute Small Research Grants Scheme, Australia
Information provided by:
National Institute on Aging (NIA) Identifier:
First received: May 18, 2006
Last updated: December 10, 2009
Last verified: February 2009
The main goal of this study is to establish the effectiveness of palliative oxygen in the context within which it is usually provided--relief of the sensation of breathlessness and improvement in quality of life for people with maximally-treated life-limiting illness.

Condition Intervention
Other: Oxygen
Other: Medical Air

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Double Blind (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: A Multi-center Randomized Double-blind Controlled Trial of Oxygen Versus Medical Air for the Relief of Breathlessness in Patients With Intractable Dyspnea and PaO2>55mmHg

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by National Institute on Aging (NIA):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Changes in relief from the sensation of breathlessness [ Time Frame: 7 days ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Changes in quality of life (QOL) [ Time Frame: 7 days ]
  • Identification of patients who benefit from palliative oxygen [ Time Frame: 7 days ]
  • Identification of side effects [ Time Frame: 7 days ]
  • Documentation of costs of palliative oxygen [ Time Frame: 7 days ]

Estimated Enrollment: 240
Study Start Date: May 2005
Study Completion Date: March 2008
Primary Completion Date: March 2008 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: A
Other: Oxygen
2L/min for 15 hours or greater per day via concentrator and nasal cannulae for 7 days
Active Comparator: B
Medical Air
Other: Medical Air
2L/min for 15 hours or greater per day via concentrator and nasal cannulae for 7 days

Detailed Description:

When further medical management will not relieve intractable breathlessness, palliative oxygen is often prescribed regardless of whether the person meets the common oxygen funding criteria of severely low blood oxygen levels. The results of this study will inform best practice in the care of people with advanced life-limiting illness and intractable breathlessness, aid in the development of rational funding guidelines, and answer an international debate on the role of palliative oxygen.

This study is a definitive international multi-center randomized double-blind controlled trial of oxygen versus medical air for the relief of breathlessness in participants with intractable dyspnea and PaO2>55mmHg (a measure of blood oxygen levels). Specific aims include demonstration of the effectiveness of oxygen versus medical air in relieving breathlessness in the palliative setting (Specific Aim 1) and improving QOL (Specific Aim 2). Additionally, we will seek to establish which patients derive the greatest benefit (Specific Aim 3), the risks of therapy (Specific Aim 4), and the costs of therapy (Specific Aim 5). The primary hypothesis is that oxygen therapy is superior to air in relieving the sensation of breathlessness for patients with intractable dyspnea due to life-limiting illness in the setting of PaO2>55mmHg.

All participants are enrolled as outpatients. The "eligibility visit" occurs about 5-7 days before starting the study and will include review of the consent form, a short interview, physical exam, and blood tests. The visit can occur in the home or clinic. The blood tests include regular venipuncture and also an arterial blood gas, if these studies have not been done in the preceding month. The "randomization visit" occurs 2 days before the study starts (Day -2) and includes a short interview and quality of life (QOL) questionnaire; this visit is usually done in the home but can also occur in the clinic. The oxygen or air concentrators are delivered to the home on Day 0 by a trained person from the oxygen company. On the same day there is also a brief home visit from the study nurse that includes a short interview and QOL questionnaire. The participant uses the oxygen or medical air gas each of 7 days (Days 0-6) for at least 15 hours each day. While using the oxygen/air the participant fills out a short diary form in the morning and evening, within 30 minutes of waking up or retiring. The diary focuses on the breathlessness, how the participant is feeling, and potential side effects of the gas. The study nurse conducts a "check-in" telephone call on Day 3 to make sure the participant is doing OK. On the last day (Day 6) the nurse visits the home to conduct a brief interview with a short QOL questionnaire. The oxygen company will pick up the concentrator, usually on Day 7.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Adult patients with intractable dyspnea and PaO2>55mmHg in the setting of terminal illness where the underlying cause has been maximally treated; a medical specialist must document that all identified reversible causes of the dyspnea have been treated; PaO2 measurement must be in the last month
  • Dyspnea at rest or with minimal exertion, as measured by a score of ≥ 3 on the Medical Research Council categorical dyspnea exertion scale
  • On stable medications over the prior week except routine "as needed" medications.
  • Survival of at least 1 month in the opinion of the treating physician

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Meets international guidelines for long-term oxygen therapy with PaO2 56-59mmHg, i.e. symptomatic pulmonary hypertension with cor pulmonale
  • Hemoglobin<10.0g/dL as measured within one month of baseline evaluation
  • PaCO2 >50 mm Hg.
  • Confusion as measured by Folstein Mini-mental Status Exam <24/30
  • Current oxygen therapy or continuous oxygen therapy in previous week
  • Actively smoking
  • Active respiratory or cardiac event in the previous 2 weeks, not including upper respiratory tract infections; illness must be resolved for at least 2 weeks prior to baseline evaluation, as judged by a doctor involved in the care of the patient
  • Previous respiratory failure induced by oxygen
  • Unable to give informed consent or complete diary entries
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00327873

United States, North Carolina
Duke University Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology
Durham, North Carolina, United States, 27710
Australia, New South Wales
Sydney Area Health Service, Sydney Cancer Centre
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2050
Australia, South Australia
Flinders University, Southern Adelaide Palliative Services
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 5041
Australia, Tasmania
Statewide Palliative Care Service
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, 7250
Australia, Victoria
Austin Health
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 3084
United Kingdom
St Nicholas Hospice
Cambridge, United Kingdom, IP33 2QY UK
Nottingham University
Nottingham, United Kingdom, NG5 1PB
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Cancer Council Tasmania
Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life, USA
Flinders Medical Research Institute Small Research Grants Scheme, Australia
Principal Investigator: Amy Abernethy, MD Duke University
Principal Investigator: David Curow, BMed,FRACP,MPH Flinders University, Australia
  More Information

Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
Responsible Party: Amy Abernethy, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Duke Cancer Care Research Program, Duke University Medical Center Identifier: NCT00327873     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: AG0064
Study First Received: May 18, 2006
Last Updated: December 10, 2009

Keywords provided by National Institute on Aging (NIA):
shortness of breath
end-of-life care

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Respiration Disorders
Respiratory Tract Diseases
Signs and Symptoms, Respiratory
Signs and Symptoms processed this record on April 24, 2017