A Medscape news report examines the need for additional research on supplemental oxygen and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

A recent study suggested that targeting a partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2) between 85 and 110 mm Hg might improve neurocognitive outcomes for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). A subsequent review in the same journal questioned this practice and critically appraised the existing data on oxygen targets and safety.

The review points out that there is no established “threshold” value below which supplemental oxygen is definitively safe, and physicians tend to underestimate the harmful effects. The authors conclude with a review of all of the instances in which the urge to “normalize” physiology has done more harm than good.