Objective: To compare the efficacy of noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) by helmet and face mask in immunocompromised patients with hypoxemic acute respiratory failure (ARF).
Design: Case-control study.
Setting: The general ICU of a university hospital.
Patients: Nineteen immunocompromised patients (hematologic malignancies [n = 8], solid-organ recipients [n = 8], AIDS [n = 3]) with hypoxemic ARF, fever, and lung infiltrates were treated with NPPV delivered by a helmet. Nineteen immunocompromised patients matched for diagnosis, age, simplified acute physiology score II, and Pao2/fraction of inspired oxygen (Fio2) receiving NPPV through a facial mask served as case-control subjects.
Results: The use of NPPV delivered via helmet was as effective as NPPV delivered via face mask in avoiding endotracheal intubations (intubation rate, 37% vs 47%, respectively; p = 0.37) and improving gas exchange; 14 patients (74%) in the helmet group showed a sustained improvement in Pao2/Fio2 ratio (ability to increase Pao2/Fio2 ratio > 200, or an increase > 100 from the baseline) in comparison with 7 patients (34%) in the mask group (p = 0.02), whose Pao2/Fio2 at treatment discontinuation was higher (p = 0.02) and had fewer complications related to NPPV (ie, skin necrosis, p = 0.01). Moreover, the patients receiving ventilation via helmet required significantly less NPPV discontinuations in the first 24 h of application (p < 0.001) than patients receiving ventilation via face mask.
Conclusions: The helmet may represent a valid alternative to a face mask in immunocompromised patients with lung infiltrates and hypoxemic ARF, increasing the patient’s tolerance (ie, the number of hours of continuous NPPV use without interruptions) and decreasing the rate of complications directly related to the administration of NPPV.