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Impact of passive humidification on clinical outcomes of mechanically ventilated patients: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials *

Siempos, Ilias I. MD; Vardakas, Konstantinos Z. MD; Kopterides, Petros MD; Falagas, Matthew E. MD, MSc, DSc

Review Article

Objective: Previous meta-analyses reported advantages of passive (i.e., heat and moisture exchangers, or HMEs) compared with active (i.e., heated humidifiers, or HHs) humidifiers in reducing the incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia, but they did not examine the effect of these devices on mortality, length of intensive care unit stay, and duration of mechanical ventilation. In addition, relevant data were recently published.

Design: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing HMEs with HHs for the management of mechanically ventilated patients to determine the impact of these devices on clinical outcomes of such patients.

Methods: We searched PubMed and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials as well as reference lists from publications, with no language restrictions. We estimated pooled odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), using a random effects model.

Results: Thirteen randomized controlled trials, studying 2,580 patients, were included. There was no difference in incidence of ventilator-associated pneumonia among patients managed with HMEs and HHs (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.62–1.16). There was no difference between the compared groups regarding mortality (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.80–1.20), length of intensive care unit stay (weighted mean differences, -0.68 days, 95% CI -3.65 to 2.30), duration of mechanical ventilation (weighted mean differences, 0.11 days, 95% CI -0.90 to 1.12), or episodes of airway occlusion (OR 2.26, 95% CI 0.55–9.28). HMEs were cheaper than HHs in each of the randomized controlled trials.

Conclusion: The available evidence does not support the preferential performance of either passive or active humidifiers in mechanical ventilation patients in terms of ventilator-associated pneumonia incidence, mortality, or morbidity.

From Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS), Athens, Greece (IIS, KZV, PK, MEF); Critical Care Department, “Attikon” University Hospital, Athens, Greece (PK); Department of Medicine, Henry Dunant Hospital, Athens, Greece (MEF); and Department of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA (MEF).

The authors have not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

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*See also p. 2875.

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