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Is there a role for humidified heated high-flow nasal cannula therapy in paediatric emergency departments?
  1. Elliot Long1,2,3,
  2. Franz E Babl1,2,3,
  3. Trevor Duke2,3,4
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, The Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry, and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, The Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elliot Long, Department of Emergency Medicine, The Royal Children's Hospital, 50 Flemington Road, Parkville VIC 3052, Australia; Elliot.long{at}


Background Humidified heated high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy is a potentially useful form of non-invasive respiratory support for children with moderate respiratory distress and/or hypoxaemia. No prospective data support its use in the paediatric emergency department (ED). We introduced HFNC therapy into a paediatric ED and evaluated its use and failure rates.

Methods Prospective observational study of all patients presenting to the Royal Children's Hospital, Australia, who received HFNC therapy between April 2013 and September 2013 (one southern hemisphere winter season). We assessed demographics, indications, failure rate, predictors of failure and adverse events.

Results 71 patients commenced HFNC therapy in ED over the study period. The median age was 9 months. The most common indication was bronchiolitis (49/71; 69%). Five (7%) of the patients failed HFNC and were escalated to other forms of respiratory support in ED, four to nasal continuous positive airway pressure and one required intubation. A further 21 (32%) failed HFNC therapy after intensive care unit (ICU) admission, giving a total failure of 28 (39%). There were no serious adverse events in ED, and one child with asthma developed air leak syndrome after transfer to the ICU.

Conclusions HFNC therapy may have a role in the paediatric ED as an easily administered and well tolerated form of non-invasive respiratory support, but about one-third of patients required escalation to a higher level of respiratory support. Further studies should assess the safety profile of HFNC in larger series, and define the role of HFNC in key respiratory conditions compared with other possible interventions.

  • respiratory
  • ventilation, non invasive
  • paediatrics, paediatric emergency medicine
  • emergency department
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