BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

Heated, humidified high-flow nasal cannula (HHHFNC) is commonly used as a noninvasive mode of respiratory support in the NICU. The safety and efficacy of HHHFNC have not been compared with other modes of noninvasive support in large randomized trials. The objective was to assess the efficacy and safety of HHHFNC compared with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) for noninvasive respiratory support in the NICU.

METHODS:

Randomized, controlled, unblinded noncrossover trial in 432 infants ranging from 28 to 42 weeks’ gestational age with planned nCPAP support, as either primary therapy or postextubation. The primary outcome was defined as a need for intubation within 72 hours of applied noninvasive therapy.

RESULTS:

There was no difference in early failure for HHHFNC (23/212 [10.8%]) versus nCPAP (18/220 [8.2%]; P = .344), subsequent need for any intubation (32/212 [15.1%] vs 25/220 [11.4%]; P = .252), or in any of several adverse outcomes analyzed, including air leak. HHHFNC infants remained on the study mode significantly longer than nCPAP infants (median: 4 vs 2 days, respectively; P < .01), but there were no differences between study groups for days on supplemental oxygen (median: 10 vs 8 days), bronchopulmonary dysplasia (20% vs 16%), or discharge from the hospital on oxygen (19% vs 18%).

CONCLUSIONS:

Among infants ≥28 weeks’ gestational age, HHHFNC appears to have similar efficacy and safety to nCPAP when applied immediately postextubation or early as initial noninvasive support for respiratory dysfunction.

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