Respiratory gas conditioning in infants with an artificial airway

Semin Neonatol. 2002 Oct;7(5):369-77. doi: 10.1053/siny.2002.0131.


There is a strong physiological rationale for delivering the inspiratory gas at or close to core body temperature and saturated with water vapour to infants with an artificial airway undergoing long-term mechanical ventilatory assistance. Cascade humidifiers with heated wire ventilatory circuitry may achieve this goal safely. Whenever saturated air leaves the humidifier chamber at 37 degrees C and condensate accumulates in the circuit, the gas loses humidity and acquires the potential to dry airway secretions near the tip of the endotracheal tube. Heat and moisture exchangers and hygroscopic condenser humidifiers with or without bacterial filters have become available for neonates. They can provide sufficient moisture output for short-term ventilation without excessive additional dead space or flow-resistive load for term infants. Their safety and efficacy for very low birthweight infants and for long-term mechanical ventilation has not been established conclusively. A broader application of these inexpensive and simple devices is likely to occur with further design improvements. When heated humidifiers are appropriately applied, water or normal saline aerosol application offers no additional significant advantage in terms of inspiratory gas conditioning and may impose a water overload on the airway or even systemically. Although airway irrigation by periodic bolus instillation of normal saline solution prior to suctioning procedures is widely practised in neonatology, virtually no data exist on its safety and efficacy when used with appropriately humidified inspired gas. There is no evidence that conditioning of inspired gas to core body temperature and full water vapour saturation may promote nosocomial respiratory infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Equipment Design
  • Hot Temperature* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / therapy*
  • United States
  • Ventilators, Mechanical*