Study reveals reducing oxygen levels for children in ICUs will save lives

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Around 20,000 children are admitted to ICUs every year in the UK

Researchers from University College London (UCL), Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre, and the Paediatric Critical Care Society Study Group have revealed that reducing levels of mechanical ventilators in critically ill children in intensive care units (ICUs) could save thousands of lives.

Every year, around 20,000 children are admitted to ICUs and around 75% of them will receive additional oxygen through a ventilator in the UK.

Published in The Lancet, the Oxy-PICU study recruited 2,040 children who ranged from newborn to 16 years and required a mechanical ventilator and extra oxygen on admission across 15 NHS paediatric ICUs (PICU) in England and Scotland.

Researchers randomly allocated the patients to one of two groups, either receiving oxygen to the standard target level or a reduced target oxygen target.

They discovered that children receiving lower levels of oxygen were 6% more likely to have a better outcome in terms of survival or the number of days spent on machines supporting their organs.

Oxygen is currently one of the most common treatments used in emergency situations, which can be adjusted by doctors or nurses depending on how much oxygen is in patients’ blood.

If scaled up across the NHS, every year the approach could save the NHS £20m, save up to 6,000 beds in ICUs and 50 lives annually in the UK.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and supported by the NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres at UCL Hospital and GOSH, professor Marian Knight, scientific director for NIHR Infrastructure, said that the study “could have a global impact”.

Professor Mark Peters, lead author, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and consultant paediatric intensivist, GOSH, said: “Because so many children are treated with oxygen, this [study] has the potential to improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs in the UK and around the world.”

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