Ground-breaking research could change the way lung disease is treated

Ground-breaking Kiwi research looks set to change the way patients with lung disease are treated.

A new study has found it's safer for patients to be treated with a far lower dose of oxygen than is currently used.

It's expected the findings will prompt global change in the way patients with lung disease are treated.

Living with emphysema is a daily struggle. It means living in fear of getting even a simple cold. 

Gillian Cavell is one of 200-thousand kiwis with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

"[It] will just exacerbate anything, chest infections and you just become so ill so quickly."

Until now, hospitals have treated acute COPD also known as emphysema and bronchitis by using oxygen to drive drugs into a patient's lungs and to help open up their airways. 

Professor Richard Beasley of the Medical Research and the main author of the study says it found that type of treatment could be risky.

"It can lead to a potentially dangerous build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood and that is harmful, and if it occurs to a marked degree it can lead to coma and an increased risk of death."

The study found using compressed air that contains 21 percent oxygen rather than oxygen gas which is 100 percent is just as effective and far safer.

Professor Beasley says he expects hospitals worldwide to adopt the findings.

"I think these findings will very quickly change clinical practise."

While Cavell isn't at a stage where she needs an oxygen tank she has been hospitalised in recent years and says it's a comfort to know the treatment will now be safer.

"If this is the way to go, I think it's the best thing ever."

She says the findings will also give doctors more confidence dealing with people who are very ill.