BMJ: Does routine oxygen supplementation in patients with acute stroke improve outcome?


BMJ 2012; (Published 30 November 2012)   Cite this as: BMJ 2012; 345:e6976

Stroke is the third most common cause of death and the leading cause of long term disability in developed countries.  Specialist care in stroke units is well established as being effective in preventing death and disability after stroke.1 However, which aspects of stroke care are crucial for improving outcome remains unclear. Patients in a stroke unit are more likely than those on a non-specialised general ward to receive oxygen.2  Bravata and colleagues found that treating all episodes of hypoxia with supplemental oxygen was one of three key processes associated with better outcome in acute stroke care.3 Mild hypoxia is common in patients with stroke and may have substantial adverse effects on an ischaemic brain after stroke. Whereas healthy adults with normal cerebral circulation can compensate for mild hypoxia by an increase in cerebral blood flow, this is not possible in patients whose brain is already ischaemic after stroke.4 Hypoxaemia in the first few hours after hospital admission is associated with an increased risk of death.5

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