Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether changing heat and moisture exchangers (HMEs) every 96 hrs rather than 24 hrs would affect their efficacy to preserve the heat and moisture of inspiratory gases. The impact of a prolonged use of the HME on its microbial colonization was also assessed.
Design: Prospective cohort observational study.
Setting: Intensive care unit of a university hospital.
Patients: Thirteen consecutive patients with no previous history of respiratory disease requiring controlled mechanical ventilation with an HME for >4 days were evaluated.
Interventions: The same HME was used for 96 hrs in each patient.
Measurements and main results: In each patient, during the inspiration phase, the following measurements were performed: peak and mean airway pressures, mean values of temperature, and relative and absolute humidity of inspired gases. In each patient, measurements were performed after 1 hr of HME use and then daily up to the fourth day. On days 1 and 4, microbiological samples were obtained from the patients' bronchial secretions and the ventilator side of the HME. After 96 hrs of ventilation with the same HME, tracheal tube occlusion was never observed. Using the same HME for 96 hrs rather than 24 hrs did not affect its technical performances: temperature at 24 hrs: 32.2 +/- 1.5 degrees C (90.0 +/- 34.7 degrees F), at 96 hrs: 32.1 +/- 1.6 degrees C (89.8 +/- 34.9 degrees F); relative humidity at 24 hrs: 97.9 +/- 2%, at 96 hrs: 98.1 +/- 1.7%; absolute humidity at 24 hrs: 33.1 +/- 2.4 mg H2O/L, at 96 hrs: 33.0 +/- 2.5 mg H2O/L. This analysis was based on a total of 312 measurements performed on the 13 patients. Peak and mean airway pressures did not change during the 96-hr study period, with identical tidal and minute volumes in the study patients. On day 1, ten patients had a positive culture of their tracheal secretions at a colony count of > or = 10(3) colony forming units/mL. After 96 hrs of use with the same HME, only seven patients had a positive culture of their tracheal secretions. Cultures from the ventilator sides of the HMEs were all sterile (13/13) after 96 hrs of use.
Conclusions: In patients free from previous chronic respiratory disorder and ventilated for neurologic reasons, changing the HME after 96 hrs rather than 24 hrs did not affect its technical performance in terms of heat and water preservation of ventilatory gases. There is also some indirect evidence of very little, if any, changes in the HME resistance. No bacterial colonization of the ventilator sides of the HMEs was observed after 96 hrs of use. However, other large clinical trials should be undertaken to confirm the safety of extending the time between HME changes.