High flow nasal cannula for respiratory support in preterm infants

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 May 11:(5):CD006405. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006405.pub2.


Background: High flow nasal cannulae (HFNC) are small, thin, tapered cannulae used to deliver oxygen or blended oxygen and air at flow rates of > 1 L/min. HFNC can be used to provide high concentrations of oxygen and may deliver positive end-expiratory pressure.

Objectives: To compare the safety and efficacy of HFNC with other forms of non-invasive respiratory support in preterm infants.

Search strategy: The strategy included searches of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2010), MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and abstracts from conference proceedings.

Selection criteria: Randomised or quasi-randomised trials comparing HFNC with other non-invasive forms of respiratory support in preterm infants immediately after birth or following extubation.

Data collection and analysis: Data were extracted and analysed by the authors. Relative risk, risk difference and number needed to treat were calculated.

Main results: Four studies were identified for inclusion in the review. The studies differed in the interventions compared (nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), humidified HFNC, non-humidified HFNC), the flow rates provided and the indications for respiratory support. Meta-analysis and subgroup analysis were not possible. When used as primary respiratory support after birth, one trial found similar rates of treatment failure in infants treated with HFNC and nasal CPAP. Following extubation, one trial found that infants treated with HFNC had a significantly higher rate of reintubation than those treated with nasal CPAP. Another trial found similar rates of reintubation for humidified and non-humidified HFNC, and the fourth trial found no difference between two different models of equipment used to deliver humidified HFNC.

Authors' conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to establish the safety or effectiveness of HFNC as a form of respiratory support in preterm infants. When used following extubation, HFNC may be associated with a higher rate of reintubation than nasal CPAP. Further adequately powered randomised controlled trials should be undertaken in preterm infants comparing HFNC with nasal CPAP and with other means of respiratory support; or of support following extubation. These trials should measure clinically important outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / therapy*
  • Catheters*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / therapy*
  • Ventilator Weaning