The clinical utility of long-term humidification therapy in chronic airway disease

Respir Med. 2010 Apr;104(4):525-33. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2009.12.016. Epub 2010 Feb 9.


Aim: Persistent airway inflammation with mucus retention in patients with chronic airway disorders such as COPD and bronchiectasis may lead to frequent exacerbations, reduced lung function and poor quality of life. This study investigates if long-term humidification therapy with high flow fully humidified air at 37 degrees C through nasal cannulae can improve these clinical outcomes in this group of patients.

Method: 108 patients diagnosed with COPD or bronchiectasis were randomised to daily humidification therapy or usual care for 12 months over which exacerbations were recorded. Lung function, quality of life, exercise capacity, and measures of airway inflammation were also recorded at baseline, 3 and 12 months.

Results: Patients on long-term humidification therapy had significantly fewer exacerbation days (18.2 versus 33.5 days; p = 0.045), increased time to first exacerbation (median 52 versus 27 days; p = 0.0495) and reduced exacerbation frequency (2.97/patient/year versus 3.63/patient/year; p = 0.067) compared with usual care. Quality of life scores and lung function improved significantly with humidification therapy compared with usual care at 3 and 12 months.

Conclusion: Long-term humidification therapy significantly reduced exacerbation days, increased time to first exacerbation, improved lung function and quality of life in patients with COPD and bronchiectasis. Clinical trial registered with; Number ACTRN2605000623695.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bronchiectasis / physiopathology
  • Bronchiectasis / therapy*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / mortality*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Therapy / instrumentation
  • Respiratory Therapy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome