Mechanical effects of heat-moisture exchangers in ventilated patients

Giorgio A. Iotti, Maddalena C. Olivei, Antonio Braschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although they represent a valuable alternative to heated humidifiers, artificial noses have unfavourable mechanical effects. Most important of these is the increase in dead space, with consequent increase in the ventilation requirement. Also, artificial noses increase the inspiratory and expiratory resistance of the apparatus, and may mildly increase intrinsic positive end-expiratory pressure. The significance of these effects depends on the design and function of the artificial nose. The pure humidifying function results in just a moderate increase in dead space and resistance of the apparatus, whereas the combination of a filtering function with the humidifying function may critically increase the volume and the resistance of the artificial nose, especially when a mechanical filter is used. The increase in the inspiratory load of ventilation that is imposed by artificial noses, which is particularly significant for the combined heat-moisture exchanger filters, should be compensated for by an increase either in ventilator output or in patient's work of breathing. Although both approaches can be tolerated by most patients, some exceptions should be considered. The increased pressure and volume that are required to compensate for the artificial nose application increase the risk of barotrauma and volutrauma in those patients who have the most severe alterations in respiratory mechanics. Moreover, those patients who have very limited respiratory reserve may not be able to compensate for the inspiratory work imposed by an artificial nose. When we choose an artificial nose, we should take into account the volume and resistance of the available devices. We should also consider the mechanical effects of the artificial noses when setting mechanical ventilation and when assessing a patient's ability to breathe spontaneously.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Care
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Breathing filters
  • Heat-moisture exchangers
  • Humidification
  • Inspired gases
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Respiratory mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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