Bedside tip: Setting high flow oxygen therapy

Author: Clinical Experts Group, Hamilton Medical , Reviewer: Paul Garbarini, David Grooms
Last change: 18.12.2019, Revision 01, Added HAMILTON-G5 screenshot

High flow oxygen therapy combines several physiological effects: Oxygenation, PEEP, an increase in the end-expiratory lung volume (EELV), a lower respiratory rate (RR), a decrease in intrinsic PEEP and work of breathing, lower PaCO2, and improved humidification and comfort (1, 2). The optimal flow setting depends on the indications and the desired physiological effect.

Oxygenation, PEEP, the increase in EELV and the decrease in RR, intrinsic PEEP and work of breathing are all flow-dependent, which means we need to use the highest flow accepted by the patient to optimize the treatment (3, 4, 5, 6). The decrease in PaCO2 and minute ventilation is achieved at 30 l/min and does not change at a higher flow (3). There is no data about using the flow setting to optimize humidification.

Initial settings and adjustments

Flow: The initial setting is 60 l/min. If the patient complains of discomfort, the flow can be decreased down to a minimum of 30 l/min. Any discomfort is usually due to the velocity of gas rather than the flow itself, and can be eased by using a large-bore cannula. For patients suffering from acute respiratory failure with increased respiratory drive, the flow can be increased to more than 60 l/min.

Temperature: In order to optimize the humidification effect, the temperature should be maintained at 37°C.

Oxygen: Oxygen is adjusted to maintain SpO2 within target ranges of 92%-96% for most patients and 88%-92% for patients with chronic respiratory disease (7, 8).

High flow oxygen therapy on the HAMILTON-G5












This bedside tip is based on the example of high flow oxygen therapy with Hamilton Medical ventilators*, however the information applies to the use of high flow oxygen therapy in general.


  1. Mauri T, Turrini C, Eronia N, Grasselli G, Volta CA, et al. Physiologic Effects of High-Flow Nasal Cannula in Acute Hypoxemic Respiratory Failure. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 May 1;195(9):1207-1215 (abstract).
  2. Goligher EC, Slutsky AS. Not Just Oxygen? Mechanisms of Benefit from High-Flow Nasal Cannula in Hypoxemic Respiratory Failure. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 May 1;195(9):1128-1131.
  3. Mauri T, Alban L, Turrini C, Cambiaghi B, Carlesso E, Taccone P, et al. Optimum support by high-flow nasal cannula in acute hypoxemic respiratory failure: effects of increasing flow rates. Intensive Care Med. 2017 Jul 31 [Epub ahead of print] (abstract).
  4. Parke RL, Bloch A, McGuinness SP. Effect of Very-High-Flow Nasal Therapy on Airway Pressure and End-Expiratory Lung Impedance in Healthy Volunteers. Respir Care. 2015 Oct;60(10):1397-403.
  5. Pisani L, Fasano L, Corcione N, Comellini V, Musti MA, Brandao M, et al. Change in pulmonary mechanics and the effect on breathing pattern of high flow oxygen therapy in stable hypercapnic COPD. Thorax. 2017 Apr;72(4):373-375 (abstract).
  6. Luo JC, Lu MS, Zhao ZH, Jiang W, Xu B, Weng L, et al. Positive End-Expiratory Pressure Effect of 3 High-Flow Nasal Cannula Devices. Respir Care. 2017 Jul;62(7):888-895 (abstract).
  7. O'Driscoll BR, Howard LS, Davison AG; British Thoracic Society. BTS guideline for emergency oxygen use in adult patients. Thorax 2008;63:vi1-68.
  8. Beasley R, Chien J, Douglas J, Eastlake L, Farah C, King G, et al. Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand oxygen guidelines for acute oxygen use in adults: 'Swimming between the flags'. Respirology 2015;20:1182-91.

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high flow oxygen therapy, HFOT, settings, oxygenation, PEEP, flow

Date of Printing: 03.06.2020
The content of this newsletter is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional training or for standard treatment guidelines in your facility. Any recommendations made in this newsletter with respect to clinical practice or the use of specific products, technology or therapies represent the personal opinion of the author only, and may not be considered as official recommendations made by Hamilton Medical AG. Hamilton Medical AG provides no warranty with respect to the information contained in this newsletter and reliance on any part of this information is solely at your own risk.