Infection control guidelines have historically classified high-flow nasal oxygen and noninvasive ventilation as aerosol-generating procedures that require specialized infection prevention and control measures.
To evaluate the current evidence that high-flow nasal oxygen and noninvasive ventilation are associated with pathogen-laden aerosols and aerosol generation.
A systematic search of EMBASE and PubMed/MEDLINE up to March 15, 2023, and CINAHL and ClinicalTrials.gov up to August 1, 2023, was performed.
Observational and (quasi-)experimental studies of patients or healthy volunteers supported with high-flow nasal oxygen or noninvasive ventilation were selected.
DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS
Three reviewers were involved in independent study screening, assessment of risk of bias, and data extraction. Data from observational studies were pooled using a random-effects model at both sample and patient levels. Sensitivity analyses were performed to assess the influence of model choice.
MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES
The main outcomes were the detection of pathogens in air samples and the quantity of aerosol particles.
Twenty-four studies were included, of which 12 involved measurements in patients and 15 in healthy volunteers. Five observational studies on SARS-CoV-2 detection in a total of 212 air samples during high-flow nasal oxygen in 152 patients with COVID-19 were pooled for meta-analysis. There was no association between high-flow nasal oxygen and pathogen-laden aerosols (odds ratios for positive samples, 0.73 [95% CI, 0.15-3.55] at the sample level and 0.80 [95% CI, 0.14-4.59] at the patient level). Two studies assessed SARS-CoV-2 detection during noninvasive ventilation (84 air samples from 72 patients). There was no association between noninvasive ventilation and pathogen-laden aerosols (odds ratios for positive samples, 0.38 [95% CI, 0.03-4.63] at the sample level and 0.43 [95% CI, 0.01-27.12] at the patient level). None of the studies in healthy volunteers reported clinically relevant increases in aerosol particle production by high-flow nasal oxygen or noninvasive ventilation.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE
This systematic review and meta-analysis found no association between high-flow nasal oxygen or noninvasive ventilation and increased airborne pathogen detection or aerosol generation. These findings argue against classifying high-flow nasal oxygen or noninvasive ventilation as aerosol-generating procedures or differentiating infection prevention and control practices for patients receiving these modalities.