Background: This systematic review and meta-analysis summarizes the safety and efficacy of high flow nasal cannula (HFNC) in patients with acute hypoxemic respiratory failure.
Methods: We performed a comprehensive search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Web of Science. We identified randomized controlled trials that compared HFNC to conventional oxygen therapy. We pooled data and report summary estimates of effect using relative risk for dichotomous outcomes and mean difference or standardized mean difference for continuous outcomes, with 95% confidence intervals. We assessed risk of bias of included studies using the Cochrane tool and certainty in pooled effect estimates using GRADE methods.
Results: We included 9 RCTs (n = 2093 patients). We found no difference in mortality in patients treated with HFNC (relative risk [RR] 0.94, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.67-1.31, moderate certainty) compared to conventional oxygen therapy. We found a decreased risk of requiring intubation (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.74-0.99) or escalation of oxygen therapy (defined as crossover to HFNC in the control group, or initiation of non-invasive ventilation or invasive mechanical ventilation in either group) favouring HFNC-treated patients (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.51-0.98), although certainty in both outcomes was low due to imprecision and issues related to risk of bias. HFNC had no effect on intensive care unit length of stay (mean difference [MD] 1.38 days more, 95% CI 0.90 days fewer to 3.66 days more, low certainty), hospital length of stay (MD 0.85 days fewer, 95% CI 2.07 days fewer to 0.37 days more, moderate certainty), patient reported comfort (SMD 0.12 lower, 95% CI 0.61 lower to 0.37 higher, very low certainty) or patient reported dyspnea (standardized mean difference [SMD] 0.16 lower, 95% CI 1.10 lower to 1.42 higher, low certainty). Complications of treatment were variably reported amongst included studies, but little harm was associated with HFNC use.
Conclusion: In patients with acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, HFNC may decrease the need for tracheal intubation without impacting mortality.
Keywords: High flow nasal cannula; Meta-analysis; Respiratory failure.