Patient Care

High-Flow Nasal Oxygen Therapy Noninferior to BiPAP in Post-Operative Respiratory Failure


Clinical question: In post-operative cardiothoracic surgery patients, is high-flow nasal oxygen therapy inferior to BiPAP for resolution of acute respiratory failure?

Background: Acute respiratory failure is common following cardiothoracic surgery, and noninvasive ventilation often is used to avoid intubation. Noninvasive ventilation is resource-intensive and might be uncomfortable to patients. High-flow nasal oxygen therapy is an alternative modality, which provides large amounts of oxygen with more ease and patient comfort.

Study design: Multi-center, randomized, noninferiority trial.

Setting: Six ICUs in France.

Synopsis: Investigators randomized 830 patients who met criteria (obesity, heart failure, or failure of spontaneous breathing trial) after cardiothoracic surgery. These patients were prophylactically treated with high-flow nasal oxygen or BiPAP. Patients with sleep apnea, nausea/vomiting, agitation/confusion, or hemodynamic instability were excluded. Data collected included arterial blood gas, respiratory rate, and patient-rated dyspnea. The primary outcome was treatment failure as defined by reintubation and mechanical ventilation, a switch to the other study treatment, or study treatment discontinuation.

Complications included pneumothorax, colonic pseudoobstruction, and nosocomial pneumonia. The expected rate of failure for BiPAP was 20%. High-flow nasal oxygen therapy was not inferior to BiPAP, with similar treatment failure rates occurring in both groups (21.9% in BiPAP patients vs. 21% of high-flow nasal oxygen patients); 20% of patients experienced persistent discomfort with either treatment method.

There were no significant differences in complications between the two study groups. Limitations included lack of blinding and potential for bias, leading to treatment failure and crossover.

Bottom line: High-flow nasal oxygen was noninferior to BiPAP in patients with respiratory failure after cardiothoracic surgery.

Citation: Stéphan F, Barrucand B, Petit P, et al. High-flow nasal oxygen vs noninvasive positive airway pressure in hypoxemic patients after cardiothoracic surgery: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015;313(23):2331-2339.

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