Oxygen toxicity

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  • The harmful effects of breathing oxygen at higher partial pressures than normal
    • Partial pressure of O2 at sea level = 0.21 ATA
  • Toxicity based on both time and partial pressure of oxygen
    • Generally, FiO2 of 40% or less (0.40 ATA) can be tolerated indefinitely[1]
    • Most common in hyperbaric oxygen therapy and prolonged administration of normobaric supplemental oxygen
    • Pulmonary toxicity occurs sooner and at lower partial pressures than CNS toxicity[1]

Clinical Features


  • Tracheobronchial irritation → pleuritic chest pain, dyspnea and coughing[2]
  • Atelectasis
  • Diffuse alveolar damage → Pulmonary edema/ARDS

Central nervous system

  • Tunnel vision
  • Tinnitus
  • Nausea
  • Facial twitching
  • Irritability (personality changes, anxiety, confusion, etc.)
  • Seizure


  • Retinopathy of prematurity (retrolentar fibroplasia)
    • Seen in premature infants
  • In adults exposed to repeated toxic levels of oxygen, can get hyperoxic myopia[3]
    • Resolves spontaneously over several weeks

Differential Diagnosis

Diving Emergencies


  • Clinical diagnosis


  • Lower inhaled partial pressure of oxygen to as low as tolerated while maintaining tissue perfusion[4]


  • Admit

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hedley-Whyte J. Pulmonary Oxygen Toxicity: Investigation and Mentoring. The Ulster Medical Journal. 2008;77(1):39-42.
  2. Thomson L, Paton J. Oxygen toxicity. Paediatr Respir Rev. 2014 Jun;15(2):120-3.
  3. Anderson B, Farmer JC. Hyperoxic myopia. Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society. 1978;76:116-124.
  4. Deutschman, C. S., & Neligan, P. J. (2010). Evidence-based practice of critical care. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier.