High flow nasal oxygen for acute type two respiratory failure: a systematic review [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]

Asem Abdulaziz Alnajada, Bronagh Blackwood, Abdulmajeed Mobrad, Adeel Akhtar, Ivan Pavlov, Murali Shyamsundar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Acute type two respiratory failure (AT2RF) is characterized by high carbon dioxide levels (PaCO2 >6kPa). Non-invasive ventilation (NIV), the current standard of care, has a high failure rate. High flow nasal therapy (HFNT) has potential additional benefits such as CO2 clearance, the ability to communicate and comfort. The primary aim of this systematic review is to determine whether HFNT in AT2RF improves 1) PaCO2, 2) clinical and patient-centred outcomes and 3) to assess potential harms.

Methods: We searched EMBASE, MEDLINE and CENTRAL (January 1999-January 2021). Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cohort studies comparing HFNT with low flow nasal oxygen (LFO) or NIV were included. Two authors independently assessed studies for eligibility, data extraction and risk of bias. We used Cochrane risk of bias tool for RCTs and Ottawa-Newcastle scale for cohort studies.

Results: From 727 publications reviewed, four RCTs and one cohort study (n=425) were included. In three trials of HFNT vs NIV, comparing PaCO2 (kPa) at last follow-up time point, there was a significant reduction at four hours (1 RCT; HFNT median 6.7, IQR 5.6 – 7.7 vs NIV median 7.6, IQR 6.3 – 9.3) and no significant difference at 24-hours or five days. Comparing HFNT with LFO, there was no significant difference at 30-minutes. There was no difference in intubation or mortality.

Conclusions: This review identified a small number of studies with low to very low certainty of evidence. A reduction of PaCO2 at an early time point of four hours post-intervention was demonstrated in one small RCT. Significant limitations of the included studies were lack of adequately powered outcomes and clinically relevant time-points and small sample size. Accordingly, systematic review cannot recommend the use of HFNT as the initial management strategy for AT2RF and trials adequately powered to detect clinical and patient-relevant outcomes are urgently warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number482
Number of pages23
Early online date16 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2021


  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy
  • High flow nasal oxygen
  • high flow nasal therapy
  • Respiratory Insufficiency - therapy
  • acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • acute hypercapnic respiratory failure
  • acute type 2 respiratory failure
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Noninvasive Ventilation
  • Humans
  • Oxygen


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