Randomized controlled trial on postoperative pulmonary humidification after total laryngectomy: External humidifier versus heat and moisture exchanger


  • Atos Medical AB, Sweden, provided the heat and moisture exchanger and cannula material for this study. The Netherlands Cancer Institute (employer of A.H.A. and F.J.M.H.) receives an unrestricted research grant from Atos Medical AB, Sweden. The authors have no other funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

  • All authors were involved in the conception and design of the project, analysis of the manuscript data, drafting or critically revising the content of the manuscript submitted for publication, and giving final approval of the version to be published.



Assessment of immediate postoperative airway humidification after total laryngectomy (TLE), comparing the use of an external humidifier (EH) with humidification through a heat and moisture exchanger (HME).

Study Design:

Randomized controlled trial (RCT).


Fifty-three patients were randomized into the standard (control) EH (N = 26) or the experimental HME arm (N = 27). Compliance, pulmonary and sleeping problems, patients' and nursing staff satisfaction, nursing time, and cost-effectiveness were assessed with trial-specific structured questionnaires and tally sheets.


In the EH arm data were available for all patients, whereas in the HME arm data were incomplete for four patients. The 24/7 compliance rate in the EH arm was 12% and in the HME arm 87% (77% if the four nonevaluable patients are considered noncompliant). Compliance and patients' satisfaction were significantly better, and the number of coughing episodes, mucus expectoration for clearing the trachea, and sleeping disturbances were significantly less in the HME arm (P < .001). This was also the case for nursing time and nursing staff satisfaction and preference.


This RCT clearly shows the benefits of immediate postoperative airway humidification by means of an HME over the use of an EH after TLE. This study therefore underlines that HMEs presently can be considered the better option for early postoperative airway humidification after TLE.