Introduction: Some guidelines to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) do not establish a recommendation for the preferential use of either heat and moisture exchangers (HMEs) or heated humidifiers (HHs), while other guidelines clearly advocate the use of HMEs. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of VAP associated with HHs or HMEs.
Methods: A randomized study was conducted in the intensive care unit of a university hospital involving patients expected to require mechanical ventilation for >5 days. Patients were assigned to two groups; one group received HH and the other group received HME. Tracheal aspirate samples were obtained on endotracheal intubation, then twice a week, and finally on extubation, in order to diagnose VAP. Throat swabs were taken on admission to the intensive care unit, then twice a week, and finally at discharge from the intensive care unit in order to classify VAP as primary endogenous, secondary endogenous, or exogenous.
Results: A total of 120 patients were assigned to HMEs (60 patients) and HHs (60 patients); 16 patients received mechanical ventilation for less than five days and were excluded from the analysis. Data analysis of the remaining 104 patients (53 HMEs and 51 HHs) showed no significant differences between groups regarding sex, age, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score, pre-VAP use of antibiotics, days on mechanical ventilation, and diagnosis group. VAP was found in eight of 51 (15.69%) patients in the HH group and in 21 of 53 (39.62%) patients in the HME group (P = 0.006). The median time free of VAP was 20 days (95% confidence interval, 13.34-26.66) for the HH group and was 42 days (95% confidence interval, 35.62-48.37) for the HME group (P <0.001). Cox regression analysis showed the HME as a risk factor for VAP (hazard rate, 16.2; 95% confidence interval, 4.54-58.04; P < 0.001).
Conclusion: The patients mechanically ventilated during more than 5 days developed a lower incidence of VAP with a heated humidifier than heat and moisture exchanger.