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Mask vs. Cannula

Hi all,
I posted here recently and was offered some very helpful support, I wish I could return the favor.

Does anybody have experience with using an mask instead of a nasal cannula. I've noticed that my mother can maintain a much better saturation using a mask over a cannula(the cannula supplying the o2) than with the cannula alone at the same o2 rate. The fully thing is, it's any mask, not just a rebreather(for instance a mask from nebulizer not plugged in). I have no idea why this is the case, even her doctor doesn't have a clue but says to do what works.

Anyway, thanks again for any input.

  1. That is extremely interesting question, I prefer mask though. I hope your mom had recovered already.

    1. Hi again, HaydenJack - glad to hear this seemed like a reasonable and practical explanation for you.
      I am glad to be able to help.

      How is mom doing?

      Leon (site moderator

      1. She's hanging in there, the breathing issues have gotten easier to manage. Now I just need to get a handle on the water pills.

      2. Hi again, HaydenJack, and thank you for getting back to us here. Glad to hear her breathing issues are easier for you to manage. I imagine her physician will be able to guide you with the diuretics.

        Please do keep us apprised of her progress and also, how you are doing.

        All the best to each of you.
        Leon (site moderator

    2. Hi again, HaydenJack, and thanks for your kind words and for this current post.

      This is an extremely interesting question - and I think there may be a reasonable and relatively simple explanation.

      Last we spoke, you mentioned your bedridden mom's condition included "end stage heart failure, COPD, a host of other stuff." That conversation can be accessed here:

      It sounds like mom may have a rather weak respiratory effort and the supplemental oxygen is helping her to maintain satisfactory oxygen levels. If, as you say, the cannula seems to work 'better', when there is a mask placed over the cannula - so be it, especially since the physician says "to do what works"!

      Now for the 'educated guess' as to 'why?' If mom has a weak respiratory effort - I'm thinking the mask is acting as a 'reservoir' for the oxygen from the cannula. Whatever mom does not inhale during the breathing cycle, builds up in the confines of the mask (which is placed over the cannula). If that is so, then during her next breath (inhalation), she will be drawing in the oxygen, both from the cannula, AND the mask (contents), which has been enriched with oxygen either from the cannula, and/or from the mask's oxygen source gas (if it is powered by oxygen). You did say the nebulizer mask is not plugged in.

      From my own perspective, these are the mechanics and physical principles of how this may be working in your mom's situation.

      Perhaps, the other clinical moderators / team members will weigh in here with their opinions, too.

      What do you think?
      Leon (site moderator

      1. Thank you, Leon. Your explanation sounds very plausible and likely the case. I can't thank you enough for answering this. It truly eases my nerves a bit.

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