High Flow Nasal Cannula: Flow Rate, Benefits & Usage

High flow nasal cannula flow rate

What is a High Flow Nasal Cannula?

A high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) is a medical device designed to deliver heated and humidified oxygen to patients at a higher flow rate than traditional nasal cannulas. This device is particularly useful for patients who require supplemental oxygen therapy, especially those with respiratory distress or hypoxemic respiratory failure. HFNCs are designed to provide a precise and controlled delivery of oxygen, which is crucial for patients who need to maintain optimal oxygen levels in their blood.

What is a High Flow Nasal Cannula Used For?

For individuals who struggle with breathing difficulties and are not receiving adequate oxygen, a nasal cannula can be a valuable tool. Oxygen is a vital gas that we inhale naturally through the air we breathe. It is essential for the proper functioning of our organs. If you have specific health conditions or are unable to obtain sufficient oxygen for any other reason, a nasal cannula provides a means to obtain the oxygen your body requires.

Your healthcare provider instructs you on the appropriate amount of oxygen to use, much like they specify the number of pills to take when writing a prescription. You mustn’t adjust your oxygen rate without consulting your healthcare provider first.

Conditions on Which High Flow Nasal Cannula Should Be Used

High flow nasal cannulas are particularly beneficial for patients who have difficulty breathing due to respiratory conditions or other medical issues. These conditions include:

  • Acute hypoxemic respiratory failure
  • Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Postextubation oxygenation
  • Preintubation oxygenation
  • Sleep apnea
  • Acute heart failure
  • Conditions where do-not-intubate orders are in place

How Does a High-Flow Nasal Cannula Work?

High-flow nasal cannulas work by delivering heated and humidified oxygen at a higher flow rate than traditional nasal cannulas. This allows for more precise control over the amount of oxygen delivered to the patient, which is critical for maintaining optimal oxygen levels in the blood. The device is designed to provide a constant flow of oxygen, which helps to wash out carbon dioxide from the lungs and improve breathing efficiency.

High Flow Nasal Cannula Flow Rate

The flow rate of a high-flow nasal cannula is typically measured in liters per minute (L/min). The flow rate can be adjusted based on the patient’s specific needs, but starting with a lower flow rate is generally recommended and gradually increasing it as needed. A high-flow nasal cannula’s maximum flow rate is typically around 60 L/min.

How to Use High-Flow Nasal Cannula for Oxygen?

Using a high-flow nasal cannula for oxygen therapy involves several steps:

  1. Choose the Right Cannula Size: Select a cannula size that fits the patient comfortably and securely in their nose.
  2. Adjust the Flow Rate: Adjust the flow rate based on the patient’s specific needs, starting with a lower rate and increasing as needed.
  3. Monitor Oxygen Levels: Monitor the patient’s oxygen levels regularly to ensure they are within the desired range.
  4. Maintain Proper Hygiene: Ensure the cannula and its accessories are properly cleaned and maintained to prevent infection.

What Are the Benefits of Using a High-Flow Nasal Cannula?

The benefits of using a high-flow nasal cannula include:

  1. Improved Oxygen Delivery: High-flow nasal cannulas deliver oxygen more efficiently and precisely than traditional nasal cannulas.
  2. Enhanced Breathing Efficiency: The device helps to wash out carbon dioxide from the lungs, improving breathing efficiency and reducing the work of breathing.
  3. Reduced Respiratory Distress: High-flow nasal cannulas can help reduce respiratory distress by providing a more stable and controlled delivery of oxygen.
  4. Increased Patient Comfort: The device is designed to be comfortable for patients, allowing them to breathe more easily and reducing the need for invasive interventions.


In conclusion, high-flow nasal cannulas are a valuable tool in the management of respiratory conditions and oxygen therapy. By understanding how they work, how to use them, and the benefits they provide, healthcare professionals can better support patients in need of supplemental oxygen. For reliable and high-quality IV cannula products, consider Denex International, a trusted IV cannula manufacturer.