Oxygen flow through nasal cannulae

Can J Anaesth. 1996 Jun;43(6):636-9. doi: 10.1007/BF03011779.


Purpose: Since many operating theatres do not have distinct oxygen flowmeters, flow rates of oxygen were measured via nasal prongs at several settings and attachments to three anaesthetic machines.

Methods: Oxygen-flow rates were measured using a Timeter RT-200 Calibration Analyzer at three, five and eight L.min-1 via nasal prongs attached to a distinct flowmeter, the common gas outlet (CGO) and the Y-piece of a circle system with the adjustable pressure release (APL) valve closed, open and partially open at circuit pressures of 10 and 20 cm H2O.

Results: The most accurate delivery of oxygen from a distinct flowmeter and the CGO (mean difference 0.2 +/- 0.2 and 0.4 +/- 0.4 respectively). Differences between the flowmeter and CGO were not significant (P = 0.1). Accuracy of flows via the Y-piece were worse than via the flowmeter and CGO (P < 0.0001). Flows via the Y-piece were less than those dialed, especially at high rates. With a partially open APL valve, flow depended upon pressure in the anaesthetic circuit, not upon the flow set. With the APL valve completely open, no flow occurred.

Conclusions: To deliver supplemental oxygen in the operating theatre when there are no distinct flowmeters, nasal prongs should be attached to the CGO of the anaesthetic machine or a flowmeter on a portable E-tank oxygen cylinder. Connecting nasal prongs to the Y-piece of a circle system should be avoided since oxygen delivery is less than dialed, especially when the APL valve is open.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Closed-Circuit / instrumentation
  • Anesthesia, Inhalation / instrumentation*
  • Calibration
  • Catheterization / instrumentation
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage*
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Pressure
  • Rheology


  • Oxygen