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Noninvasive ventilation (NIV), which delivers oxygen by a face mask connected to a ventilator, may be more effective at easing dyspnea in patients with end-stage lung cancer than standard oxygen therapy via nasal cannula. In a study-the first to compare the two therapies-92 patients with end-stage lung cancer were randomized to receive either standard oxygen therapy or NIV. Although the 3-month mortality was similar for each group, researchers found that standard oxygen therapy took about 3 hours to become effective, while NIV eased breathing difficulties more quickly. After 3 hours, the therapies were equally effective. In addition, the average use of morphine in the first 24 hours was significantly lower among those on NIV than those on standard oxygen therapy.


Researchers say that NIV not only relieves dyspnea, but it also reduces the work of breathing. As an added benefit, patients need less morphine, reducing opioid-related adverse reactions. The researchers noted that some patients can't tolerate NIV, which requires wearing a face mask, so patients should decide which treatment they prefer.


This study was reported at the American Thoracic Society's 2008 International Conference in Toronto earlier this year.

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