From the Journals

HFNC more comfortable for posthypercapnic patients with COPD



Following invasive ventilation for severe hypercapnic respiratory failure, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease had similar levels of treatment failure if they received high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy or noninvasive ventilation, recent research in Critical Care has suggested.

However, for patients with COPD weaned off invasive ventilation, high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen therapy was “more comfortable and better tolerated,” compared with noninvasive ventilation (NIV). In addition, “airway care interventions and the incidence of nasofacial skin breakdown associated with HFNC were significantly lower than in NIV,” according to Dingyu Tan of the Clinical Medical College of Yangzhou (China) University, Northern Jiangsu People’s Hospital, and colleagues. “HFNC appears to be an effective means of respiratory support for COPD patients extubated after severe hypercapnic respiratory failure,” they said.

The investigators screened patients with COPD and hypercapnic respiratory failure for enrollment, including those who met Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) criteria, were 85 years old or younger and caring for themselves, had bronchopulmonary infection–induced respiratory failure, and had achieved pulmonary infection control criteria. Exclusion criteria were:

  • Patients under age 18 years.
  • Presence of oral or facial trauma.
  • Poor sputum excretion ability.
  • Hemodynamic instability that would contraindicate use of NIV.
  • Poor cough during PIC window.
  • Poor short-term prognosis.
  • Failure of the heart, brain, liver or kidney.
  • Patients who could not consent to treatment.

Patients were determined to have failed treatment if they returned to invasive mechanical ventilation or switched from one treatment to another (HFNC to NIV or NIV to HFNC). Investigators also performed an arterial blood gas analysis, recorded the number of duration of airway care interventions, and monitored vital signs at 1 hour, 24 hours, and 48 hours after extubation as secondary analyses.

Overall, 44 patients randomized to receive HFNC and 42 patients randomized for NIV were available for analysis. The investigators found 22.7% of patients in the HFNC group and 28.6% in the NIV group experienced treatment failure (risk difference, –5.8%; 95% confidence interval, −23.8 to 12.4%; P = .535), with patients in the HFNC group experiencing a significantly lower level of treatment intolerance, compared with patients in the NIV group (risk difference, ­–50.0%; 95% CI, −74.6 to −12.9%; P = .015). There were no significant differences between either group regarding intubation (−0.65%; 95% CI, −16.01 to 14.46%), while rate of switching treatments was lower in the HFNC group but not significant (−5.2%; 95% CI, −19.82 to 9.05%).

Patients in both the HFNC and NIV groups had faster mean respiratory rates 1 hour after extubation (P < .050). After 24 hours, the NIV group had higher-than-baseline respiratory rates, compared with the HFNC group, which had returned to normal (20 vs. 24.5 breaths per minute; P < .050). Both groups had returned to baseline by 48 hours after extubation. At 1 hour after extubation, patients in the HFNC group had lower PaO2/FiO2 (P < .050) and pH values (P < .050), and higher PaCO2 values (P less than .050), compared with baseline. There were no statistically significant differences in PaO2/FiO2, pH, and PaCO2 values in either group at 24 hours or 48 hours after extubation.

Daily airway care interventions were significantly higher on average in the NIV group, compared with the HFNC group (7 vs. 6; P = .0006), and the HFNC group also had significantly better comfort scores (7 vs. 5; P < .001) as measured by a modified visual analog scale, as well as incidence of nasal and facial skin breakdown (0 vs. 9.6%; P = .027), compared with the NIV group.


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