Recommendations

Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine & the Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine

3.
Do not use oxygen therapy to treat non-hypoxic dyspnoea.

Oxygen is frequently used to relieve shortness of breath in patients with advanced illness. However, supplemental oxygen does not benefit patients who are breathless but not hypoxic. Supplemental flow of air is equally as effective as oxygen under these circumstances. The use of a fan for facial air streaming can also be effective.

Supporting evidence
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) evidentiary framework. Ont Health Technol Assess Ser 2012;12(2):1-97.
  • Abernethy AP, McDonald CF, Frith PA, et al. Effect of palliative oxygen versus room air in relief of breathlessness in patients with refractory dyspnoea: a doubleblind, randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2010;376(9743):784-93.
  • Uronis HE, Currow DC, McCrory DC, Samsa GP, Abernethy AP. Oxygen for relief of dyspnoea in mildly- or non-hypoxaemic patients with cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Cancer 2008;98(2):294-99.
  • Philip J, Gold M, Milner A, Di Iulio J, Miller B, Spruyt O. A randomized, double-blind, crossover trial of the effect of oxygen on dyspnea in patients with advanced cancer. J Pain Symptom Manage 2006;32(6):541-50.
How this list was made How this list was made

Fellows from the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine and Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM/AChPM) convened a working group to produce an EVOLVE list for palliative medicine. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) assisted this working group in compiling a list of 15 clinical practices in palliative medicine which may be overused, inappropriate or of limited effectiveness in a given clinical context based on a desktop review of similar work done overseas. 

This list was then sent out to all ANZSPM and AChPM members, seeking feedback on whether the items fully captured the concerns of clinicians in an Australasian palliative medicine context and if not, whether any items should be omitted and/or new items added. 40 responses to this email were received. Based on these, 3 items were removed leaving a shortlist of 12. An online survey was then sent to all ANZSPM and AChPM members asking respondents to rate each item against three criteria from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and to nominate any additional practices worthy of consideration. 

The criteria used to rate the practices were strength of evidence, significance in palliative care and whether palliative care physicians could make a difference in influencing the incidence of the practice in question. Based on the 114 responses to this survey, the top 5 were selected.