Short-Term High-Flow Oxygen Therapy for Low-Risk Patients Decreases Reintubation Rates


Clinical question: Does the use of high-flow oxygen therapy for 24 hours following extubation reduce the risk of reintubation in low-risk patients?

Bottom line: Using high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy for 24 hours following extubation of patients who are already at low risk of reintubation further reduces the risk of reintubation. You would need to treat 14 patients with high-flow therapy to prevent reintubation in one patient. (LOE = 1b)

Reference: Hernandez G, Vaquero C, Gonzalez P, et al. Effect of postextubation high-flow nasal cannula vs conventional oxygen therapy on reintubation in low-risk patients. JAMA 2016;315(13):1354-1361.

Study design: Randomized controlled trial (nonblinded)

Funding source: Self-funded or unfunded

Allocation: Concealed

Setting: Inpatient (ICU only)


These investigators recruited mechanically ventilated adult patients who were ready for extubation and who met the criteria for low risk for reintubation. Low risk was defined as: younger than 65 years; Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score of less than 12; fewer than 2 comorbidities; body mass index of less than 30; ability to manage secretions; simple weaning; and the absence of heart failure, moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, airway patency issues, and prolonged mechanical ventilation.

Using concealed allocation, these patients were randomized to receive either conventional oxygen therapy or high-flow oxygen therapy for 24 hours following extubation. Conventional oxygen therapy was continued in both groups after 24 hours as needed. The 2 groups had a mean age of 51 years and similar APACHE scores at baseline. The use of high-flow oxygen therapy reduced the rate of reintubation within 72 hours from 12.2% to 4.9% (absolute difference 7.2%; 95% CI 2.5%-12.2%; number needed to treat [NNT] = 14; P = .004). There were no significant differences detected in the 2 groups in secondary outcomes including time to reintubation or hospital length of stay. Notably, the study population had a high proportion of surgical and neurocritical patients, resulting in one-third of the reintubations occurring because of nonrespiratory causes such as repeat surgery or altered mental status. When the analysis was limited to only the respiratory-related intubations, the reduced risk of reintubation persisted in the high-flow oxygen group (1.5% vs 8.7%; NNT = 14; P = .001).

Dr. Kulkarni is an assistant professor of hospital medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

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