Use of helium-oxygen mixtures to relieve upper airway obstruction in a pediatric population

Laryngoscope. 2001 Sep;111(9):1512-4. doi: 10.1097/00005537-200109000-00004.


Objectives: Helium as a component of inspired gas decreases turbulent flow and airway resistance. Helium-oxygen mixtures have been used since the 1930s in the management of patients with upper airway obstruction. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of helium-oxygen mixtures in relieving upper airway obstruction in a pediatric population.

Study design: Retrospective chart review of 42 pediatric patients who received helium-oxygen mixtures for upper airway obstruction within a 3-year period.

Methods: The study protocol included 42 pediatric patients, aged 1 week to 14 years, who were admitted to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from June 1997 to December 2000 and who received a total of 44 treatments of helium-oxygen therapy for upper airway obstruction. Response to treatment was determined by reduction in work of breathing noted on the chart.

Results: Thirty-two of 44 helium-oxygen treatments resulted in a positive response (73%). There were no significant differences in demographic characteristics between responders and nonresponders, except all of the premature infants were responders and 6 of the 9 patients with syndromes were nonresponders.

Conclusions: Helium-oxygen therapy is a useful adjunct therapy for upper airway obstruction. Controlled clinical trials are necessary to better define the appropriate settings for use of helium-oxygen.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Airway Obstruction / pathology
  • Airway Obstruction / physiopathology
  • Airway Obstruction / therapy*
  • Airway Resistance
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Helium / chemistry
  • Helium / pharmacology
  • Helium / therapeutic use*
  • Hemangioma / complications
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infections / complications
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Laryngeal Diseases / complications
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Male
  • Oxygen / chemistry
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • Oxygen / therapeutic use*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Tracheal Stenosis / complications
  • Tracheitis / complications
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Work of Breathing


  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Oxygen