Heated humidified high flow nasal cannula therapy in children with obstructive sleep apnea: A randomized cross-over trial

Haley Fishman, Nawal Al-Shamli, Kanokkarn Sunkonkit, Bryan Maguire, Sarah Selvadurai, Adele Baker, Reshma Amin, Evan J. Propst, Nikolaus E. Wolter, Danny J. Eckert, Eyal Cohen, Indra Narang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Objective/background: Moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is highly prevalent in children with obesity and/or underlying medical complexity. The first line of therapy, adenotonsillectomy (AT), does not cure OSA in more than 50% of these children. Consequently, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the main therapeutic option but adherence is often poor. A potential alternative which may be associated with greater adherence is heated high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy; however, its efficacy in children with OSA has not been systematically investigated. The study aimed to compare the efficacy of HFNC with CPAP to treat moderate-to-severe OSA with the primary outcome measuring the change from baseline in the mean obstructive apnea/hypopnea index (OAHI). Participants/methods: This was a single-blinded randomized, two period crossover trial conducted from March 2019 to December 2021 at a Canadian pediatric quaternary care hospital. Children aged 2–18 years with obesity and medical complexity diagnosed with moderate-to-severe OSA via overnight polysomnography and recommended CPAP therapy were included in the study. Following diagnostic polysomnography, each participant completed two further sleep studies; a HFNC titration study and a CPAP titration study (9 received HFNC first, and 9 received CPAP first) in a random 1:1 allocation order. Results: Eighteen participants with a mean ± SD age of 11.9 ± 3.8 years and OAHI 23.1 ± 21.7 events/hour completed the study. The mean [95% CI] reductions in OAHI (-19.8[-29.2, -10.5] vs. -18.8 [-28.2, -9.4] events/hour, p = 0.9), nadir oxygen saturation (7.1[2.2, 11.9] vs. 8.4[3.5, 13.2], p = 0.8), oxygen desaturation index (-11.6[-21.0, -2.3] vs. -16.0[-25.3, -6.6], p = 0.5) and sleep efficiency (3.5[-4.8, 11.8] vs. 9.2[0.9, 15.5], p = 0.2) with HFNC and CPAP therapy were comparable between conditions. Conclusion: HFNC and CPAP therapy yield similar reductions in polysomnography quantified measures of OSA severity among children with obesity and medical complexities. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-88
Number of pages8
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Continuous positive airway pressure
  • High-flow nasal cannula
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Pediatric


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