Relationship between the humidity and temperature of inspired gas and the function of the airway mucosa

Crit Care Med. 1996 Nov;24(11):1920-9. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199611000-00025.


Objective: To review the available literature on the relationship between the humidity and temperature of inspired gas and airway mucosal function.

Data sources: International computerized databases and published indices, experts in the field, conference proceedings, bibliographies.

Study selection/data extraction: Two hundred articles/texts on respiratory tract physiology and humidification were reviewed. Seventeen articles were selected from 40 articles for inclusion in the published data verification of the model. Selection was by independent reviewers. Extraction was by consensus, and was based on finding sufficient data.

Data synthesis: A relationship exists between inspired gas humidity and temperature, exposure time to a given humidity level, and mucosal function. This relationship can be modeled and represented as an inspired humidity magnitude vs. exposure time map. The model is predictive of mucosal function and can be partially verified by the available literature. It predicts that if inspired humidity deviates from an optimal level, a progressive mucosal dysfunction begins. The greater the humidity deviation, the faster the mucosal dysfunction progresses.

Conclusions: A model for the relationship between airway mucosal dysfunction and the combination of the humidity of inspired gas and the duration over which the airway mucosa is exposed to that humidity is proposed. This model suggests that there is an optimal temperature and humidity above which, and below which, there is impaired mucosal function. This optimal level of temperature and humidity is core temperature and 100% relative humidity. However, existing data are only sufficient to test this model for gas conditions below core temperature and 100% relative humidity. These data concur with the model in that region. No studies have yet looked at this relationship beyond 24 hrs. Longer exposure times to any given level of inspired humidity and inspired gas temperatures and humidities above core temperature and 100% relative humidity need to be studied to fully verify the proposed model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*