What is oxygen therapy and how does it work?

Oxygen therapy (also known as supplementary oxygen) is when air with a higher concentration of oxygen is inhaled. It is a type of conventional therapy that can often be used as part of the treatment for people with pulmonary hypertension (PH).

Oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, from low levels back to more normal levels. It can also help relax the arteries in the lungs. This leads to reduced pressure in the pulmonary artery.The blood vessel delivering blood to the lungs from the right side of the heart.

Oxygen therapy can reduce tiredness and breathlessness in some people with PH. It can improve concentration and the ability to do everyday tasks. Not everyone with PH needs oxygen therapy. Some people who do need it will not need it all the time. Many people with PH need to use oxygen at night when they are sleeping.

How do you get oxygen therapy?

If your PH team decides you would benefit from oxygen therapy they will fill in a home oxygen order form (HOOF) for you. This is like a prescription for oxygen. It tells the company delivering your oxygen what you need. An engineer will come to your home to fit all the equipment and show you how to use it.

Oxygen therapy is paid for by the NHS.

How do you take oxygen?

Oxygen is supplied in many different ways. You can get oxygen from:

  • compressed oxygen in cylinders
  • liquid oxygen in cylinders
  • an oxygen concentrator machine (extracts oxygen from the air).

Oxygen is delivered from the cylinders or concentrator by plastic tubing to a mask or through soft tubes in your nose (known as nasal cannulae).

Nasal cannulae for oxygen

Person wearing a nasal cannulae

If you would like to share your experiences of oxygen therapy or tell us how you live and cope with PH please fill in our online form.


FAQs: The clinician

FAQs: The clinician
Dr Sean Gaine, Consultant Respiratory Physician from the Pulmonary Hypertension Unit, Mater Miseriocordiae Hospital, Dublin, answers frequently asked questions about oxygen therapy.

FAQs: The oxygen supplier

FAQs: The oxygen supplier
Jill Smith, Patient Services Manager for Air Products (an oxygen supplier), answers questions about oxygen therapy equipment..

Patient Stories

Patient Stories
PH patients Anne Emblen and Jacqui Boldy talk to Dr Chris Steele (Patron of the PHA UK) about living with oxygen therapy.

Oxygen therapy equipment

Oxygen therapy equipment
Jill Smith from Air Products talks through the different types of oxygen delivery systems.

Last updated: April 4th, 2012. Review date April 3rd 2015
A full list of references used can be obtained by contacting the PHA UK Office

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