Debunking medical myths and misunderstandings happens most often in the exam room. One of the most common misunderstandings involves the need for oxygen therapy. Many patients believe that when they are short of breath it is because their oxygen level is low. This is often not the case, and the truth is, it takes some time with a low oxygen level to feel short of breath. The real problem for most patients with COPD when they get short of breath with activity is poor cardiovascular conditioning and air trapping when they are breathing more rapidly, and occasionally cardiac issues are part of the problem.

Patients must meet certain medical test criteria before insurance companies will pay for oxygen therapy. This includes government insurance such as Medicare and Medicaid. The most reliable test is the arterial blood gas (ABG) analysis, but it is also the most uncomfortable and difficult to use in an out-patient setting. An ABG requires a blood sample from a small artery usually in the wrist and the testing device is expensive and not available in most offices. The pulse on test uses the little device that many have seen which clips on the finger and gives a reading.

Regardless of your symptoms most insurances will not pay for oxygen therapy unless you have met the appropriate standards. If you are short of breath with activity and think your oxygen level is the problem you can call the Lung Disease Center at 814-946-2845 for a full evaluation of your symptoms