Results Summary

What was the research about?

Pulmonary fibrosis (PF) is a health problem that causes scarring in the lungs. Patients with PF have a hard time breathing, feel tired, and may have poor quality of life. Fifty percent of people with PF die within three years of diagnosis.

Many doctors prescribe treatment with oxygen for patients with PF. The equipment for oxygen treatment can be hard to handle and can make it hard for people to leave the house. Little research has been done on whether oxygen treatment helps patients with PF.

The research team wanted to learn how patients and caregivers felt about oxygen treatment, including its benefits and downsides. The team wanted to find out if oxygen treatment improves

  • Breathing
  • Coughing
  • Quality of life
  • Tiredness
  • Physical activity

What were the results?

Patients with PF took surveys before and after oxygen treatment. From the surveys, the research team found that

  • After one month of oxygen treatment, patients felt less tired than before. But there were no changes in breathing, quality of life, coughing, or physical activity.
  • Nine to 12 months after oxygen treatment, patients had a harder time breathing and coughed more than they did 1 month after treatment. Patients said that coughing affected their quality of life and their health was worse than it had been one month after treatment.

The team also talked with 5 patients with PF who were on oxygen treatment and 20 caregivers of patients with PF who had been using oxygen for at least eight months. The research team found that

  • Before treatment, all patients thought oxygen would help them feel better. After treatment, four patients said it improved symptoms. But patients felt frustrated with the oxygen equipment. They also felt judged by other people in public.
  • Caregivers thought oxygen treatment helped patients feel better. But caregivers also said that they had to do more physical work at home. They also felt that the burden of oxygen treatment strained their relationships with patients.

Who was in the study?

The study included 43 patients with PF who received oxygen treatment. Ninety-three percent of patients were white.

What did the research team do?

The research team surveyed the patients by email three times: one week before starting oxygen treatment, one month after starting treatment, and 9 to 12 months after starting treatment. The team asked patients to wear a GPS and an activity monitor for seven days around the time the surveys were taken. The surveys asked patients about ease of breathing, quality of life, tiredness, and coughing. The team compared results from the surveys and monitors across the three timepoints.

The research team also interviewed 5 of the patients with PF and the 20 caregivers by phone. The team asked about the benefits and downsides of oxygen treatment. The team interviewed patients one week before starting oxygen treatment, one month after starting treatment, and 9 to 12 months after starting treatment. The team interviewed caregivers after patients had been on oxygen treatment for at least eight months.

What were the limits of the study?

The study had few patients. Results might be different if more patients took part in the study. Also, the research team didn’t know if patients used oxygen correctly or took other medicines. These actions could affect how well oxygen treatment helped patients.

Future research could compare patients with PF who receive oxygen treatment with those who don’t.

How can people use the results?

Patients with PF and their doctors can use the results of this study to talk about the potential benefits and downsides of oxygen treatment.

Final Research Report

View this project's final research report.

Peer-Review Summary

Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also confirms that the research has followed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts who were not members of the research team read a draft report of the research. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. Reviewers do not have conflicts of interest with the study.

The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve how the research team analyzed its results or reported its conclusions. Learn more about PCORI’s peer-review process here.

In response to peer review, the PI made changes including

  • Updating the abstract to better match the results presented in the text, including the result that the primary outcome analysis did not show statistically significant differences between the compared interventions
  • Adding to both the abstract and the full report a discussion of the lack of a control group and why it is a study limitation
  • Stating clearly that the slope analyses were secondary analyses and that no sensitivity analyses had been performed
  • Modifying some potentially objectionable language in the Background section

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

Jeffrey Swigris, DO, MS
National Jewish Health
Patient Participation Program for Pulmonary Fibrosis: Assessing the Effects of Supplemental Oxygen

Key Dates

May 2013
March 2018

Study Registration Information


Has Results
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Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
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Last updated: April 16, 2024