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Oxygen and Carbon

Dioxide exchange in COPD


Mechanics of Normal
In the lungs, Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide are exchanged within
tiny air sacs (Alveoli), between our lungs and blood stream
When a person breathes in, oxygen moves from the Alveoli
through capillaries and into the bloodstream. At the same
time, carbon dioxide moves from the bloodstream into the
The carbon dioxide is removed from the lungs when a person
breathes out

Mechanics of Normal
In healthy lungs, the production of CO2and
its removal are finely balanced
Normal resting CO2production averages
With COPD, resting CO2production is
increased due to additional work of
breathing and increased metabolism, and
is estimated to be as much as 23% higher
than normal resting production

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide exchange in COPD patients

COPD is a condition in which the trachea and bronchi

become inflamed and narrowed and the air sacs
become damaged
The lungs become more damaged over time and it becomes
increasingly difficult to breathe
In many patients with COPD, the small sacs where oxygen
and carbon dioxide are exchanged are destroyed, gradually
making it harder for the body to ensure proper gas exchange

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

exchange in COPD patients
When the damage is severe, it may also
become difficult to get enough oxygen into
the blood and to get rid of excess carbon

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

exchange in COPD patients
The pathway to the lungs can also be
damaged in COPD patients

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

exchange in COPD patients
The airway is inflamed and clogged
with mucus, which makes the lungs
susceptible to both viral and
bacterial infections
With a smaller path for the air to get
through, it becomes harder for the
air to get out, trapping dead air in
your trachea or bronchi
Simply put, the lungs cant get new
oxygen and cant get rid of old

As you increase the amount of air left in your lungs
(Functional Residual Capacity on a spirometry test),
breathing gets harder
This limits the amount of air that is in your lungs
participating in gas exchange
This is why exercise is so hard exercise increases the
demand of oxygen exchange, which is already difficult
to do.

Airflow Obstruction associated with

Airflow obstruction in COPD causes air
to become trapped in the lungs after a
full exhalation, increasing the effort
required to inhale
In COPD, there is physical change in
lung anatomy
This impairs the exchange of
oxygen and carbon dioxide between
the alveoli and the blood.

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide

exchange in COPD patients
People with healthy lungs rely on high CO2 levels
to stimulate the brain to breathe .
People with COPD can sometimes have higher CO2
levels than people with healthy lungs and therefore
become less sensitive to CO2
The person must then rely more on low oxygen
levels to stimulate their breathing
Providing this client with oxygen may put them at
risk as they lose their drive to breathe (CO2
The clinician must be knowledgeable of this or use blood gas
results to provide care

Carbon Dioxide Levels in COPD

In the earlier stages of COPD, oxygen
levels in the blood may be decreased, but
carbon dioxide levels remain normal
In the later stages, carbon dioxide levels
increase and oxygen levels fall in the
The rise in CO2 will overall worsen
COPD symptoms (shortness of breath)

Oxygen Therapies
Some people with COPD need to receive extra oxygen
to maintain sufficient oxygen in the blood.
Some people need oxygen therapy for only a short time
for example when they are released from a hospital
after a COPD flare-up.
Long-term oxygen therapy prolongs the life of people
who have advanced COPD and severely reduced
oxygen levels in their blood.
*Although round-the-clock therapy is best, using oxygen
12 hours a day also has some benefits.
Oxygen therapy may also decrease shortness of breath
during exercise.

Oxygen Therapy Devices