The ideal flow rate for patients with COPD intends to increase the levels of arterial partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2) to between 60 to 65 mm Hg, saturating the blood with 90 percent to 92 percent oxygen, according to WebMD. It has been shown that higher flow rates than this are not beneficial and can even pose risks for the patient. As with most medical treatments, there are both long-term and short-term benefits, as well as risks involved with using oxygen for patients with COPD.
Oxygen treatment may be necessary for patients who have a PaO2 level lower than or equal to 55 mm Hg or an arterial oxygen saturation level lower than or equal to 88 percent, according to WebMD. For patients who have a PaO2 level between 56 mm Hg and 59 mm Hg, an arterial oxygen saturation level of 89 percent and evidence of heart failure or erythrocytosis (increased red blood cell count), oxygen may be beneficial as well. Oxygen may also help patients who have an arterial oxygen saturation higher than 88 percent when resting but who experience lower levels when exercising.
Oxygen is highly flammable, meaning patients who use O2 should be cautious to avoid smoking as well as other fire hazards, such as open flames or other flammable objects.