Impact of passive humidification on clinical outcomes of mechanically ventilated patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Crit Care Med. 2007 Dec;35(12):2843-51. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000295302.67973.9a.


Objective: Previous meta-analyses reported advantages of passive (i.e., heat and moisture exchangers, or HMEs) compared with active (i.e., heated humidifiers, or HHs) humidifiers in reducing the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia, but they did not examine the effect of these devices on mortality, length of intensive care unit stay, and duration of mechanical ventilation. In addition, relevant data were recently published.

Design: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing HMEs with HHs for the management of mechanically ventilated patients to determine the impact of these devices on clinical outcomes of such patients.

Methods: We searched PubMed and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials as well as reference lists from publications, with no language restrictions. We estimated pooled odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), using a random effects model.

Results: Thirteen randomized controlled trials, studying 2,580 patients, were included. There was no difference in incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia among patients managed with HMEs and HHs (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.62-1.16). There was no difference between the compared groups regarding mortality (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.80-1.20), length of intensive care unit stay (weighted mean differences, -0.68 days, 95% CI -3.65 to 2.30), duration of mechanical ventilation (weighted mean differences, 0.11 days, 95% CI -0.90 to 1.12), or episodes of airway occlusion (OR 2.26, 95% CI 0.55-9.28). HMEs were cheaper than HHs in each of the randomized controlled trials.

Conclusion: The available evidence does not support the preferential performance of either passive or active humidifiers in mechanical ventilation patients in terms of ventilator-associated pneumonia incidence, mortality, or morbidity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Incidence
  • Infection Control / economics
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / prevention & control*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiration, Artificial / instrumentation*
  • Risk Factors