Introduction High-flow nasal oxygen (HFNO) is increasingly used as part of ward-based treatment, especially for oncology patients with respiratory failure that is either directly due to the underlying malignancy or secondary to anti-cancer drugs or radiotherapy-induced pneumonitis. Patient selection is paramount to its success, as unsuitable selection can result in delays in appropriate palliation, leading to unrealistic expectations for relatives.
Methods We performed a retrospective audit of 40 patients across both Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General Hospitals, who received HFNO on the respiratory wards over July-December 2019.
Results The average age for patients receiving HFNO was 74 years with mortality rates being the highest at 80% in the 80–89 years age group. Interestingly, 81% of patients with HFNO as their ceiling of treatment died and only 10% of patients deemed for full escalation of treatment died. The majority of referrals were from medical specialities, closely followed by oncology. The oncology patients did show the highest mortality rates. The majority of patients referred for NHFO were those deemed not to be appropriate for escalation to ITU.
Conclusion Our experience demonstrates that the mortality of oncology patients on HFNO is high. Although starting HFNO in these patient groups might be appropriate if we can demonstrate evidence of reversible pathology, care needs to be taken in managing the expectations of patients and their families, and where relevant, appropriate palliative input sought.
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