R M Leach D F Treacher

Although traditionally interested in conditions affecting gas exchange within the lungs, the respiratory physician is increasingly, and appropriately, involved in the care of critically ill patients and therefore should be concerned with systemic as well as pulmonary oxygen transport. Oxygen is the substrate that cells use in the greatest quantity and upon which aerobic metabolism and cell integrity depend. Since the tissues have no storage system for oxygen, a continuous supply at a rate that matches changing metabolic requirements is necessary to maintain aerobic metabolism and normal cellular function. Failure of oxygen supply to meet metabolic needs is the feature common to all forms of circulatory failure or "shock". Prevention, early identification, and correction of tissue hypoxia are therefore necessary skills in managing the critically ill patient and this requires an understanding of oxygen transport, delivery, and consumption.

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