Persistent hypercapnia after COPD exacerbation is associated with excess mortality and early rehospitalization. High Flow Nasal cannula (HFNC), may be theoretically an alternative to long-term noninvasive ventilation (NIV), since physiological studies have shown a reduction in PaCO2 level after few hours of treatment. In this clinical study we assessed the acceptability of HFNC and its effectiveness in reducing the level of PaCO in patients recovering from an Acute Hypercapnic Respiratory Failure (AHRF) episode. We also hypothesized that the response in CO clearance is dependent on baseline level of hypercapnia.
Fifty COPD patients recovering from an acute exacerbation and with persistent hypercapnia, despite having attained a stable pH (i.e. pH > 7,35 and PaCO > 45 mmHg on 3 consecutive measurements), were enrolled and treated with HFNC for at least 8 h/day and during the nighttime RESULTS: HFNC was well tolerated with a global tolerance score of 4.0 ± 0.9. When patients were separated into groups with or without COPD/OSA overlap syndrome, the “pure” COPD patients showed a statistically significant response in terms of PaCO decrease (p = 0.044). In addition, the subset of patients with a lower pH at enrolment were those who responded best in terms of CO clearance (score test for trend of odds, p = 0.0038).
HFNC is able to significantly decrease the level of PaCO after 72 h only in “pure” COPD patients, recovering from AHRF. No effects in terms of CO2 reduction were found in those with overlap syndrome. The present findings will help guide selection of the best target population and allow a sample size calculation for future long-term randomized control trials of HFNC vs NIV.
This study is registered with www. with identifier number NCT03759457.