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Clinical review: Helmet and non-invasive mechanical ventilation in critically ill patients

Antonio M Esquinas Rodriguez1*, Peter J Papadakos2, Michele Carron3, Roberto Cosentini4 and Davide Chiumello5

Author Affiliations

1 Intensive Care Unit, Hospital Morales Meseguer, Avenida Marques de Los Velez s/n, Murcia, 30008, Spain

2 University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA

3 Department of Medicine, Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, University of Padova, 35121 Padova, Italy

4 Gruppo NIMV UO Medicina d'Urgenza, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, 20122 Milano, Italy

5 Anestesia, Rianimazione e Terapia del dolore, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda - Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, 20145 Milano, Italy

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Critical Care 2013, 17:223  doi:10.1186/cc11875

Published: 25 April 2013


Non-invasive mechanical ventilation (NIV) has proved to be an excellent technique in selected critically ill patients with different forms of acute respiratory failure. However, NIV can fail on account of the severity of the disease and technical problems, particularly at the interface. The helmet could be an alternative interface compared to face mask to improve NIV success. We performed a clinical review to investigate the main physiological and clinical studies assessing the efficacy and related issues of NIV delivered with a helmet. A computerized search strategy of MEDLINE/PubMed (January 2000 to May 2012) and EMBASE (January 2000 to May 2012) was conducted limiting the search to retrospective, prospective, nonrandomized and randomized trials. We analyzed 152 studies from which 33 were selected, 12 physiological and 21 clinical (879 patients). The physiological studies showed that NIV with helmet could predispose to CO2 rebreathing and increase the patients' ventilator asynchrony. The main indications for NIV were acute cardiogenic pulmonary edema, hypoxemic acute respiratory failure (community-acquired pneumonia, postoperative and immunocompromised patients) and hypercapnic acute respiratory failure. In 9 of the 21 studies the helmet was compared to a face mask during either continous positive airway pressure or pressure support ventilation. In eight studies oxygenation was similar in the two groups, while the intubation rate was similar in four and lower in three studies for the helmet group compared to face mask group. The outcome was similar in six studies. The tolerance was better with the helmet in six of the studies. Although these data are limited, NIV delivered by helmet could be a safe alternative to the face mask in patients with acute respiratory failure.