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How Long Can Your Oxygen Tubing Be? 

Many people with COPD require supplemental oxygen. This requires the use of a nasal cannula and tubing. A standard recommendation is to never exceed 50 feet of tubing. So what’s the deal with this limit? Can you safely utilize more than 50 feet of tubing? Here’s what to know.

Why is longer oxygen tubing helpful?

Where I work, the standard tubing length is seven feet. You attach the nasal cannula to a patient’s face. You plug the opposite end to a flowmeter on the wall. You turn the flowmeter up to 2-3 liters per minute (LPM).

Most people with COPD only need a low flow of oxygen. So, 2-3 LPM works great for most people with COPD. However, sometimes more is needed. In either case, oxygen tubing acts as a leash and is restraining. It limits how far you can move from that source. It limits your activity. And this can negatively affect a person’s overall sense of well being.

This where extra tubing and longer tubing comes into play. In the hospital, we only have 7 feet tubing. For some people, this is not even enough to roll over in bed. We connect these together to add length. We have lots of extra 7-foot long oxygen tubing. These can be connected together using connectors. In the home setting, many oxygen providers have 50-foot tubing.

So, longer tubing is very nice for those who need oxygen. It allows for more freedom when moving around the house. This makes it easier to stay active, thereby improving morale and quality of life.

What is the recommended oxygen tubing length?

Home oxygen therapy was extensively studied in the 1950s and 60s. It was determined that people with COPD benefited from supplemental oxygen. Likewise, they learned most people with COPD only need 2-3 LPM. This was all that was needed to keep their oxygen levels in the safe range.

So, many people with COPD were prescribed home oxygen therapy. Some were required to wear it 24/7. This limited their ability to move about their homes. It limited their ability to stay active. So, some started adding oxygen tubing to their cannula tubing. They did this using oxygen tubing connectors. Some people added lots of extra tubing.

This got the experts to thinking: “How much tubing is too much?”

The fear was that longer tubings resulted in the loss of flow to the patient. For instance, let’s say a person has 2LPM prescribed. You dial the flowmeter up to 2LPM. Then, to increase mobility, you add extra tubing. The fear was that, the longer the tubing, the more likely this flow would be lost. For example, rather than inhaling the dialed in 2lpm, the person might be inhaling 1.5 LPM.

This is what led to the 50-foot recommendation.

What do studies show about oxygen tubing length?

There was a study done in 2015. The researchers decided the current regulation was based on scanty evidence. So they decided to do their own study in Brazil. They tested tubing at different lengths: 20 feet, 50 feet, and 100 feet. They also tested it at different liter flows: 1 LPM, 3 LPM, and 5 LPM.1-2

The liter flows were measured at both ends of the oxygen tubing. It was measured at the source. It was also measured where it would be connected to the patients.

At 20 and 50 feet, all liter flows were the same on both ends of the tubing. So this proved that 50 feet was a safe tubing length. At 100 feet, 1 LPM and 3LPM measured the same on both ends of the tubing. But, the 5LPM measured slightly less at the patient side. However, this difference was less than 1%. This was determined to be a negligible difference.

So, the researchers made a conclusion. And that conclusion was that a tubing length of up to 100 feet was acceptable. This is true for flows up to 5LPM.1-2

Longer tubing is probably safe

Most experts continue to recommend a 50-foot tubing limit. This is because it usually takes a while for study results to show up in practice. However, this study proves that it’s probably safe to add more tubing if you need to. This study is your evidence should anyone question you. Thoughts?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Aguiar, et al., “Tubing Length For Long-Term Oxygen Therapy,” Respiratory Care, 2015, http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/60/2/179, accessed 8/2/19
  2. “How Long Can Your Tubing Length Be?” 2015, February 6, COPD Foundation, https://www.copdfoundation.org/COPD360social/Community/Questions-and-Answers/How-Long-Can-your-Oxygen-Tubing-Safely-Be.aspx, accessed 8/2/19

Comments

  • Duchess15
    3 months ago

    My house is very long so I use a 50′ and a 14′ with a swivel connector. Yes there are times when it seems to tangle for no reason but most of the time it works great. I have my concentrator sitting about midway in my house so I can go pretty much everywhere I want except for a few extra steps beyond my leash. I have also gotten a tester and run a test to check the oxygen flow at both ends, I’m on 3 and it read 3 at both ends so I’m good.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Duchess, and thanks for joining in the conversation. It sounds like you have all of this under good control. Keep up the good work!
    Leon (site moderator)

  • earle1
    3 months ago

    I use 2 20′ lengths of tubing with a swivel connector. It has cut down on twisting. With 2 lengths it is easier to untwist and check for abrasions.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi earle, and thanks for chiming in here. I’m in agreement with my colleague, John – we appreciate you sharing what you’ve been so successful with. All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    3 months ago

    That’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing. John. Site Moderator.

  • Domino3076
    3 months ago

    Mostly i use 25′ tubing. it gets me around the house for the most part. 50′ gets me into the garage to do laundry, etc. However 50′ gets very tangled. Any suggestions?

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi again, Domino, and thanks for this post of yours. Your question is not uncommon, as many in our community have expressed similar concerns when it comes to using longer oxygen supply hoses. I thought this article, on that very topic, might provide you with some additional insight: https://copd.net/living/tangled-oxygen-line/. Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • TracyCarnahan
    3 months ago

    Hi John, this is great information. I live in a good sized house where another 25 ft. added to my 50ft. cannula would be welcomed. Just one extra length could get me to all the rest of the places that are just out of reach, like the front door and the back patio. Thanks for sharing the results of this study.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks. You are welcome Just don’t get tangle!!! :). John. Author Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi John – thanks for publishing this very informative and very timely article. It’s going to be very, very helpful moving forward as a reference and for resource material for our community members.

    I’ve always assumed this to be the case over the years. If the tubing (regardless of length) is secure with no leaks (and no compressibility factor). the flow coming out of the hose should always be the same as that going into the hose. It’s physics, right?
    The loss of 1% at 5 lpm for a 100 foot length of hose is (clearly) considered to be statistically (and practically) insignificant.
    Again, thanks for this material!
    Leon

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    3 months ago

    Thanks Leon. Neat to have the scientific evidence to back us up. John.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hey John – it sure is! The ‘thanks’ go to YOU!
    Enjoy the weekend,
    Leon

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