From the Journals

Alternative oxygen therapy reduces treatment failure in bronchiolitis



High-flow oxygen therapy outside the ICU boosts the likelihood that infants with bronchiolitis will avoid treatment failure and an escalation of treatment, a study finds.

“High flow can be safely used in general emergency wards and general pediatric ward settings in regional and metropolitan hospitals that have no immediate direct access to dedicated pediatric intensive care facilities,” study coauthor Andreas Schibler, MD, of University of Queensland in Australia, said in an interview. The findings were published March 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Newborn baby sleeping in an incubator Zoonar RF/Thinkstock
Bronchiolitis is quite common in children, and a 2002 report found that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) bronchiolitis was the most common reason for infants under the age of 1 year to be hospitalized in the United States during 1997-1999 (Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2002 Jul;21[7]:629-32).

“The typical treatment for bronchiolitis is supportive therapy, providing nutrition, fluids, and if needed respiratory support including provision of oxygen,” Dr. Schibler said.

The prognosis is generally goods thanks to improvements in intensive care, he said, which some infants need because the standard oxygen therapy provided in general pediatric wards is insufficient. The new study examines whether high-flow oxygen therapy through a cannula – which he said has become more common – reduces the risk of treatment failure in non-ICU therapy, compared with standard oxygen treatment.

Dr. Schibler and his colleagues tracked 1,472 patients under 12 months with bronchiolitis and a need for oxygen treatment who were randomly assigned to high-flow or standard oxygen therapy to maintain their oxygen saturation at 92%-98% or 94%-98%, depending on policy at the hospital. The subjects were patients at 17 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand.

A total of 739 infants received high-flow treatment that provided heated and humidified oxygen at a rate of 2 liters per kilogram of body weight per minute. The other 733 infants received standard oxygen therapy up to a maximum 2 liters per minute.


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