High-Flow Nasal Oxygen vs Noninvasive Positive Airway Pressure in Hypoxemic Patients After Cardiothoracic Surgery: A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. 2015 Jun 16;313(23):2331-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.5213.


Importance: Noninvasive ventilation delivered as bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) is often used to avoid reintubation and improve outcomes of patients with hypoxemia after cardiothoracic surgery. High-flow nasal oxygen therapy is increasingly used to improve oxygenation because of its ease of implementation, tolerance, and clinical effectiveness.

Objective: To determine whether high-flow nasal oxygen therapy was not inferior to BiPAP for preventing or resolving acute respiratory failure after cardiothoracic surgery.

Design and setting: Multicenter, randomized, noninferiority trial (BiPOP Study) conducted between June 15, 2011, and January 15, 2014, at 6 French intensive care units.

Participants: A total of 830 patients who had undergone cardiothoracic surgery, of which coronary artery bypass, valvular repair, and pulmonary thromboendarterectomy were the most common, were included when they developed acute respiratory failure (failure of a spontaneous breathing trial or successful breathing trial but failed extubation) or were deemed at risk for respiratory failure after extubation due to preexisting risk factors.

Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to receive high-flow nasal oxygen therapy delivered continuously through a nasal cannula (flow, 50 L/min; fraction of inspired oxygen [FiO2], 50%) (n = 414) or BiPAP delivered with a full-face mask for at least 4 hours per day (pressure support level, 8 cm H2O; positive end-expiratory pressure, 4 cm H2O; FiO2, 50%) (n = 416).

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was treatment failure, defined as reintubation, switch to the other study treatment, or premature treatment discontinuation (patient request or adverse effects, including gastric distention). Noninferiority of high-flow nasal oxygen therapy would be demonstrated if the lower boundary of the 95% CI were less than 9%. Secondary outcomes included mortality during intensive care unit stay, changes in respiratory variables, and respiratory complications.

Results: High-flow nasal oxygen therapy was not inferior to BiPAP: the treatment failed in 87 of 414 patients with high-flow nasal oxygen therapy (21.0%) and 91 of 416 patients with BiPAP (21.9%) (absolute difference, 0.9%; 95% CI, -4.9% to 6.6%; P = .003). No significant differences were found for intensive care unit mortality (23 patients with BiPAP [5.5%] and 28 with high-flow nasal oxygen therapy [6.8%]; P = .66) (absolute difference, 1.2% [95% CI, -2.3% to 4.8%]. Skin breakdown was significantly more common with BiPAP after 24 hours (10% vs 3%; 95% CI, 7.3%-13.4% vs 1.8%-5.6%; P < .001).

Conclusions and relevance: Among cardiothoracic surgery patients with or at risk for respiratory failure, the use of high-flow nasal oxygen therapy compared with intermittent BiPAP did not result in a worse rate of treatment failure. The findings support the use of high-flow nasal oxygen therapy in similar patients.

Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01458444.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Hypoxia / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration*
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy*
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / complications
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01458444