Unpredictability of delivered bubble nasal continuous positive airway pressure: role of bias flow magnitude and nares-prong air leaks

Pediatr Res. 2007 Sep;62(3):343-7. doi: 10.1203/PDR.0b013e318123f702.


Nasal continuous-positive-airway-pressure (NCPAP) is popular for infant respiratory support. We compared delivered to intended intra-prong, proximal-airway, and distal-airway pressures using ventilator (V-NCPAP) and bubble (B-NCPAP) devices. Measurements were repeated at five flows (4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 L/min) and three NCPAP (4, 6, and 8 cm H2O) under no, small, and large nares-prong interface leak conditions. With no-leak, delivered B-NCPAP was systematically greater than intended levels at all pressure sites. The corresponding V-NCPAP flow-dependence was none-to-minimal. Prong and intra-airway B-NCPAP overshoots were also observed with small-leak, while only prong B-NCPAP showed a flow-dependent overshoot for large-leak. Leaks did not affect intra-prong V-NCPAP but resulted in progressively lower than desired, flow-independent intra-airway V-NCPAP. We conclude that the self-adjusting capability of ventilators allows closely matched actual versus intended V-NCPAP. Alternatively, for the range of flows used clinically, intra-prong and intra-airway B-NCPAP are systematically higher at increasing flows than operator-intended levels, even when appreciable nares-prong leak is present. Additionally, the oscillations (noise) characterizing B-NCPAP are substantially attenuated between the proximal and distal airways; therefore, it is unlikely that B-NCPAP engenders ventilation or lung recruitment via this phenomenon. Tubing submersion depth for setting the level of B-NCPAP is highly inaccurate, and operators should instead rely on intra-prong pressure measurement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure* / instrumentation
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure* / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Masks
  • Models, Biological