Background: High-flow nasal cannulae (HFNCs) create positive oropharyngeal airway pressure, but it is unclear how their use affects lung volume. Electrical impedance tomography allows the assessment of changes in lung volume by measuring changes in lung impedance. Primary objectives were to investigate the effects of HFNC on airway pressure (P(aw)) and end-expiratory lung volume (EELV) and to identify any correlation between the two. Secondary objectives were to investigate the effects of HFNC on respiratory rate, dyspnoea, tidal volume, and oxygenation; and the interaction between BMI and EELV.
Methods: Twenty patients prescribed HFNC post-cardiac surgery were investigated. Impedance measures, P(aw), ratio, respiratory rate, and modified Borg scores were recorded first on low-flow oxygen and then on HFNC.
Results: A strong and significant correlation existed between P(aw) and end-expiratory lung impedance (EELI) (r=0.7, P<0.001). Compared with low-flow oxygen, HFNC significantly increased EELI by 25.6% [95% confidence interval (CI) 24.3, 26.9] and P(aw) by 3.0 cm H(2)O (95% CI 2.4, 3.7). Respiratory rate reduced by 3.4 bpm (95% CI 1.7, 5.2) with HFNC use, tidal impedance variation increased by 10.5% (95% CI 6.1, 18.3), and ratio improved by 30.6 mm Hg (95% CI 17.9, 43.3). A trend towards HFNC improving subjective dyspnoea scoring (P=0.023) was found. Increases in EELI were significantly influenced by BMI, with larger increases associated with higher BMIs (P<0.001).
Conclusions: This study suggests that HFNCs reduce respiratory rate and improve oxygenation by increasing both EELV and tidal volume and are most beneficial in patients with higher BMIs.