Supplemental oxygen is often administered liberally to acutely ill adults, but the credibility of the evidence for this practice is unclear. We systematically reviewed the efficacy and safety of liberal versus conservative oxygen therapy in acutely ill adults.
In the Improving Oxygen Therapy in Acute-illness (IOTA) systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, Embase, HealthSTAR, LILACS, PapersFirst, and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry from inception to Oct 25, 2017, for randomised controlled trials comparing liberal and conservative oxygen therapy in acutely illadults (aged ≥18 years). Studies limited to patients with chronic respiratory diseases or psychiatric disease, patients on extracorporeal life support, or patients treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy or elective surgery were excluded. We screened studies and extracted summary estimates independently and in duplicate. We also extracted individual patient-level data from survival curves. The main outcomes were mortality (in-hospital, at 30 days, and at longest follow-up) and morbidity (disability at longest follow-up, risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia, any hospital-acquired infection, and length of hospital stay) assessed by random-effects meta-analyses. We assessed quality of evidence using the grading of recommendations assessment, development, and evaluation approach. This study is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42017065697.
25 randomised controlled trials enrolled 16 037 patients with sepsis, critical illness, stroke, trauma, myocardial infarction, or cardiac arrest, and patients who had emergency surgery. Compared with a conservative oxygen strategy, a liberal oxygen strategy (median baseline saturation of peripheral oxygen [SpO2] across trials, 96% [range 94-99%, IQR 96-98]) increased mortality in-hospital (relative risk [RR] 1·21, 95% CI 1·03-1·43, I2=0%, high quality), at 30 days (RR 1·14, 95% CI 1·01-1·29, I2=0%, high quality), and at longest follow-up (RR 1·10, 95% CI 1·00-1·20, I2=0%, high quality). Morbidity outcomes were similar between groups. Findings were robust to trial sequential, subgroup, and sensitivity analyses.
In acutely ill adults, high-quality evidence shows that liberal oxygen therapy increases mortality without improving other patient-important outcomes. Supplemental oxygen might become unfavourable above an SpO2 range of 94-96%. These results support the conservative administration of oxygen therapy.