Around 669,000 people in the UK over the age of 45 years suffer from chronic heart failure (CHF), a condition in which the heart is too weak to efficiently pump the blood around the body.

CHF is commonly characterized by breathlessness and can be worse when the patient is at rest sleeping. Despite conclusive evidence in terms of its efficiency, doctors frequently prescribe home oxygen therapy (HOT) to treat CHF symptoms, which can be inconvenient for patients, as well as expensive. In addition, symptoms of breathlessness in patients with CHF are not always related to low blood oxygen levels.

Researchers at the University of Hull have just started a major new trial to examine the effects of home oxygen therapy in patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) to provide clear guidelines as to whether HOT should in fact be routinely offered to this patient group.

Leading researchers, professor Andrew Clark from Hull University explains:

"There is a strong belief that oxygen must be vital for patients suffering from breathlessness: however we can't be certain that home oxygen therapy is effective, particularly since we know many CHF patients who are well treated with medication have normal levels of arterial oxygen in their blood while they are at rest and during exercise."

The researchers will recruit approximately 165 patients for the two-year randomized trial, in which the team will assess various factors, including the patients' overall quality of life, their exercise ability, level of breathlessness as well as the severity of the patients' CHF. It will originally be based in Hull, yet may involve other UK institutions as the study progresses. The participants will be split into three different groups; one group will receive overnight HOT alongside their regular medication, whilst a second group will receive a daily 17-hour duration of HOT in addition to their regular medical therapy. The third group will continue to receive their normal medical therapy with no home oxygen.

Professor Clark says:

"The results of the research will offer clinicians useful guidance on whether home oxygen therapy is beneficial to patients with chronic heart failure. This will enable them to better target treatments for the benefit of patients and to ensure resources are used cost-effectively."

Written By Petra Rattue