The influence of a heat and moisture exchanger on tracheal climate in a cold environment

Med Eng Phys. 2009 Sep;31(7):852-7. doi: 10.1016/j.medengphy.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 May 28.


Objective: The incidence of pulmonary complaints, severe tracheitis and lung function deterioration is increased during wintertime in laryngectomized individuals. We analyzed how a heat and moisture exchanger (HME) performs in cold and dry ambient circumstances, and how its efficiency in this environmental climate might be improved.

Study design: Randomized crossover.

Methods: Intra-tracheal temperature and humidity were measured in 10 laryngectomized patients with and without HME, in a cold (mean, 4.7 degrees C) and dry (mean, 4.5 mgH2O/L) room.

Results: Presence of an HME causes the intra-tracheal mean humidity minima and maxima to increase with 4.2 mgH2O/L (95%CI: 3.3-5.0 mgH2O/L; p<0.001) and 2.4 mgH2O/L (95%CI: 1.7-3.1 mgH2O/L; p<0.001), respectively. The intra-tracheal mean temperature minima and maxima increased with 3.9 degrees C (95%CI: 2.7-5.1 degrees C; p<0.001) and 1.2 degrees C (95%CI: 0.8-1.2 degrees C; p<0.001), respectively. In the majority of patients, the calculated relative humidity values appear to reach well above 100% during inspiration.

Conclusion: In a cold environment, presence of an HME significantly increases both inspiratory and expiratory temperature and humidity values. Relative humidity calculations suggest the formation of condense droplets during inspiration. To further increase its effectiveness, improvement of the HME's thermal capacity should be aimed for.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Environment, Controlled
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Laryngectomy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality Control
  • Respiration, Artificial / instrumentation*
  • Respiration, Artificial / methods
  • Trachea / physiology*
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Water