Helium-oxygen mixture in the treatment of postextubation stridor in pediatric trauma patients

Crit Care Med. 1991 Mar;19(3):356-9. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199103000-00013.


Objective: To assess the effectiveness of a helium-oxygen mixture in reducing post-extubation stridor in children hospitalized for burns or trauma.

Design: Randomized, controlled crossover trial.

Setting: Harborview Medical Center's Burn and Trauma ICUs from March to September 1989.

Patients: Children less than 15 yr old who were electively extubated and had symptoms of postextubation stridor, but required less than or equal to 35% oxygen.

Intervention: Each treatment (helium-oxygen and oxygen-supplemented room air) was given in random order for 15 min after extubation.

Measurements: Respiratory distress was assessed by a physician blinded to treatment order using a standard stridor score and clinical judgment.

Results: There were 13 children with 15 extubations; seven (47%) of 15 patients required subsequent treatment with racemic epinephrine or reintubation. Stridor scores were lower with helium-oxygen than with oxygen-supplemented room air (2.8 vs. 3.7, p less than .005), and helium-oxygen was preferred in eight of nine trials in which one treatment was clearly favored by the physician.

Conclusion: Because helium-oxygen therapy can reduce stridor scores and is clinically preferred by physicians caring for stridorous children, it may be a useful adjunctive therapy in pediatric trauma patients with postextubation stridor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Burns, Inhalation / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Epinephrine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Helium / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Male
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Racepinephrine
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Trauma Centers


  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Racepinephrine
  • Oxygen
  • Epinephrine