High-flow nasal cannulae (HFNC) deliver high flows of blended humidified air and oxygen via wide-bore nasal cannulae and may be useful in providing respiratory support for adults experiencing acute respiratory failure, or at risk of acute respiratory failure, in the intensive care unit (ICU). This is an update of an earlier version of the review.
To assess the effectiveness of HFNC compared to standard oxygen therapy, or non-invasive ventilation (NIV) or non-invasive positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV), for respiratory support in adults in the ICU.
We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science, and the Cochrane COVID-19 Register (17 April 2020), clinical trial registers (6 April 2020) and conducted forward and backward citation searches.
We included randomized controlled studies (RCTs) with a parallel-group or cross-over design comparing HFNC use versus other types of non-invasive respiratory support (standard oxygen therapy via nasal cannulae or mask; or NIV or NIPPV which included continuous positive airway pressure and bilevel positive airway pressure) in adults admitted to the ICU.
We used standard methodological procedures as expected by Cochrane.
We included 31 studies (22 parallel-group and nine cross-over designs) with 5136 participants; this update included 20 new studies. Twenty-one studies compared HFNC with standard oxygen therapy, and 13 compared HFNC with NIV or NIPPV; three studies included both comparisons. We found 51 ongoing studies (estimated 12,807 participants), and 19 studies awaiting classification for which we could not ascertain study eligibility information. In 18 studies, treatment was initiated after extubation. In the remaining studies, participants were not previously mechanically ventilated. HFNC versus standard oxygen therapy HFNC may lead to less treatment failure as indicated by escalation to alternative types of oxygen therapy (risk ratio (RR) 0.62, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.45 to 0.86; 15 studies, 3044 participants; low-certainty evidence). HFNC probably makes little or no difference in mortality when compared with standard oxygen therapy (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.11; 11 studies, 2673 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). HFNC probably results in little or no difference to cases of pneumonia (RR 0.72, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.09; 4 studies, 1057 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), and we were uncertain of its effect on nasal mucosa or skin trauma (RR 3.66, 95% CI 0.43 to 31.48; 2 studies, 617 participants; very low-certainty evidence). We found low-certainty evidence that HFNC may make little or no difference to the length of ICU stay according to the type of respiratory support used (MD 0.12 days, 95% CI -0.03 to 0.27; 7 studies, 1014 participants). We are uncertain whether HFNC made any difference to the ratio of partial pressure of arterial oxygen to the fraction of inspired oxygen (PaO2/FiO2) within 24 hours of treatment (MD 10.34 mmHg, 95% CI -17.31 to 38; 5 studies, 600 participants; very low-certainty evidence). We are uncertain whether HFNC made any difference to short-term comfort (MD 0.31, 95% CI -0.60 to 1.22; 4 studies, 662 participants, very low-certainty evidence), or to long-term comfort (MD 0.59, 95% CI -2.29 to 3.47; 2 studies, 445 participants, very low-certainty evidence). HFNC versus NIV or NIPPV We found no evidence of a difference between groups in treatment failure when HFNC were used post-extubation or without prior use of mechanical ventilation (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.22; 5 studies, 1758 participants; low-certainty evidence), or in-hospital mortality (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.31; 5 studies, 1758 participants; low-certainty evidence). We are very uncertain about the effect of using HFNC on incidence of pneumonia (RR 0.51, 95% CI 0.17 to 1.52; 3 studies, 1750 participants; very low-certainty evidence), and HFNC may result in little or no difference to barotrauma (RR 1.15, 95% CI 0.42 to 3.14; 1 study, 830 participants; low-certainty evidence). HFNC may make little or no difference to the length of ICU stay (MD -0.72 days, 95% CI -2.85 to 1.42; 2 studies, 246 participants; low-certainty evidence). The ratio of PaO2/FiO2 may be lower up to 24 hours with HFNC use (MD -58.10 mmHg, 95% CI -71.68 to -44.51; 3 studies, 1086 participants; low-certainty evidence). We are uncertain whether HFNC improved short-term comfort when measured using comfort scores (MD 1.33, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.92; 2 studies, 258 participants) and responses to questionnaires (RR 1.30, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.53; 1 study, 168 participants); evidence for short-term comfort was very low certainty. No studies reported on nasal mucosa or skin trauma.
HFNC may lead to less treatment failure when compared to standard oxygen therapy, but probably makes little or no difference to treatment failure when compared to NIV or NIPPV. For most other review outcomes, we found no evidence of a difference in effect. However, the evidence was often of low or very low certainty. We found a large number of ongoing studies; including these in future updates could increase the certainty or may alter the direction of these effects.