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J Surg Res. 2017 Sep;217:258-264. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2017.06.026. Epub 2017 Jul 12.

Extubation to high-flow nasal cannula in critically ill surgical patients.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Trauma and Critical Care, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.
Department of Surgery, Division of Trauma and Critical Care, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California. Electronic address:



High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) is increasingly used to reduce reintubations in patients with respiratory failure. Benefits include providing positive end expiratory pressure, reducing anatomical dead space, and decreasing work of breathing. We sought to compare outcomes of critically ill surgical patients extubated to HFNC versus conventional therapy.


A retrospective review was conducted in the surgical intensive care unit of an academic center during August 2015 to February 2016. Data including demographics, ventilator days, oxygen therapy after extubation, reintubation rates, surgical intensive care unit and hospital length of stay, and mortality were collected. Self and palliative extubations were excluded. Characteristics and outcomes, with the primary outcome being reintubation, were compared between those extubated to HFNC versus cool mist/nasal cannula (CM/NC).


Of the 184 patients analyzed, 46 were extubated to HFNC and 138 to CM/NC. Mean age and days on ventilation before extubation were 57.8 years and 4.3 days, respectively. Both cohorts were similar in age, sex, and had a similar prevalence of cardiopulmonary diagnoses at admission. Although prior to extubation HFNC had lengthier ventilation requirements (7.1 versus 3.4 days, P < 0.01) and ICU stays (7.8 versus 4.1 days, P < 0.01), the rate of reintubation was similar to CM/NC (6.5% versus 13.8%, P = 0.19). Multivariable analysis demonstrated HFNC to be associated with a lower risk of reintubation (adjusted odds ratio = 0.15, P = 0.02). Mortality rates were similar.


Ventilated patients at risk for recurrent respiratory failure have reduced reintubation rates when extubated to HFNC. Patients with prolonged intubation or those with high-risk comorbidities may benefit from extubation to HFNC.


Critical care; High-flow nasal cannula; Mechanical ventilation; Reintubation; Surgical ICU

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