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Oxygen Delivery Comparison of Two Constant-Flow Masks During Flight to 6863 m

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Hinkelbein J, Glaser E, Doerrstein J, Genzwuerker HV. Oxygen delivery comparison of two constant-flow masks during flight to 6863 m. Aviat Space Environ Med 2006; 77:540–544.

Objective: Differences in mask design may alter the oxygen flow required to gain similar oxygenation at a particular altitude. The selection of the most efficient mask would be advantageous for general aviation and other applications where oxygen supply is limited. Methods: We compared a basic mask (BAS) without valves or oxygen reservoir bag to a test mask (TST) with three valves and a reservoir designed to deliver up to 80% oxygen for critically ill patients. Randomly assigned parachutists (n = 31) used the masks during a flight with a gradual climb to 6863 m (22,500 ft). The oxygen flow was individually controlled to produce oxygen saturation (SpO2) of 95–97% as determined by pulse oximetry. Oxygen flow and SpO2 were obtained every 305 m (1000 ft). Results: Baseline age, lung function indices, and SpO2 were comparable for the two groups. Mean in-flight SpO2 values were 95.3 ± 0.5% for the BAS and 96.2 ± 1.1% for the TST, respectively. Above 3965 m (13,000 ft) the TST required significantly less oxygen flow than the BAS to maintain the target SpO2. At 6863 m (22,500 ft), mean oxygen flow was 5.5 ± 3.5 L · min−1 for the BAS vs. 3.4 ± 2.3 L · min−1 for the TST (p = 0.029). No adverse reactions were reported from either group. Conclusion: The TST required significantly less oxygen flow compared with the BAS at high altitudes and may, therefore, reduce total oxygen use, resulting in reduced costs and longer oxygen availability during a flight.
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Keywords: hypobaric hypoxia; oxygen flow; oxygen mask; oxygen partial pressure; oxygen saturation

Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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