Impact of flow and temperature on patient comfort during respiratory support by high-flow nasal cannula

Tommaso Mauri, Alessandro Galazzi, Filippo Binda, Laura Masciopinto, Nadia Corcione, Eleonora Carlesso, Marta Lazzeri, Elena Spinelli, Daniela Tubiolo, Carlo Alberto Volta, Ileana Adamini, Antonio Pesenti, Giacomo Grasselli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) delivers up to 60 l/min of humidified air/oxygen blend at a temperature close to that of the human body. In this study, we tested whether higher temperature and flow decrease patient comfort. In more severe patients, instead, we hypothesized that higher flow might be associated with improved comfort. Methods: A prospective, randomized, cross-over study was performed on 40 acute hypoxemic respiratory failure (AHRF) patients (PaO2/FiO2≤300+pulmonary infiltrates + exclusion of cardiogenic edema) supported by HFNC. The primary outcome was the assessment of patient comfort during HFNC delivery at increasing flow and temperature. Two flows (30 and 60 l/min), each combined with two temperatures (31 and 37 °C), were randomly applied for 20 min (four steps per patient), leaving clinical FiO2 unchanged. Toward the end of each step, the following were recorded: comfort by Visual Numerical Scale ranging between 1 (extreme discomfort) and 5 (very comfortable), together with respiratory parameters. A subgroup of more severe patients was defined by clinical FiO2≥45%. Results: Patient comfort was reported as significantly higher during steps at the lower temperature (31 °C) in comparison to 37 °C, with the HFNC set at both 30 and 60 l/min (p<0.0001). Higher flow, however, was not associated with poorer comfort. In the subgroup of patients with clinical FiO2≥45%, both lower temperature (31 °C) and higher HFNC flow (60 l/min) led to higher comfort (p<0.01). Conclusions: HFNC temperature seems to significantly impact the comfort of AHRF patients: for equal flow, lower temperature could be more comfortable. Higher flow does not decrease patient comfort; at variance, it improves comfort in the more severely hypoxemic patient.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 9 2018


  • Acute hypoxemic respiratory failure
  • High-flow nasal oxygen
  • Nursing
  • Patient comfort
  • Spontaneous breathing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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