Publication Date



Nature Reviews Cardiology


Mammals have evolved to adapt to differences in oxygen availability. Although systemic oxygen homeostasis relies on respiratory and circulatory responses, cellular adaptation to hypoxia involves the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF). Given that many cardiovascular diseases involve some degree of systemic or local tissue hypoxia, oxygen therapy has been used liberally over many decades for the treatment of cardiovascular disorders. However, preclinical research has revealed the detrimental effects of excessive use of oxygen therapy, including the generation of toxic oxygen radicals or attenuation of endogenous protection by HIFs. In addition, investigators in clinical trials conducted in the past decade have questioned the excessive use of oxygen therapy and have identified specific cardiovascular diseases in which a more conservative approach to oxygen therapy could be beneficial compared with a more liberal approach. In this Review, we provide numerous perspectives on systemic and molecular oxygen homeostasis and the pathophysiological consequences of excessive oxygen use. In addition, we provide an overview of findings from clinical studies on oxygen therapy for myocardial ischaemia, cardiac arrest, heart failure and cardiac surgery. These clinical studies have prompted a shift from liberal oxygen supplementation to a more conservative and vigilant approach to oxygen therapy. Furthermore, we discuss the alternative therapeutic strategies that target oxygen-sensing pathways, including various preconditioning approaches and pharmacological HIF activators, that can be used regardless of the level of oxygen therapy that a patient is already receiving.


Animals, Humans, Cardiovascular Diseases, Hypoxia, Oxygen, Oxygen Inhalation Therapy, Gene Expression Regulation, Mammals



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.