Someone just read that title and said to their self, “What? I’ll keep my regular nose”. Artificial noses are for people who also have an artificial airway (trach tube).
Our bodies normal way of giving the air we breathe heat and humidity, is through our nose and our mouth. This is also how our bodies filter impurities such as dirt and dust particles. When a patient has a trach tube in place, their nose and mouth are bypassed, so they are breathing cold and dry air. These patients require supplemental heat and humidity in both hospital and home care settings to prevent secretions in the airway from becoming dry and potentially causing a mucus plug. One of the ways we can supplement this in a trach patient is with a HME… Artificial nose!
So what is a HME and how does it work?
HME stands for heated-moisture exchange. This can be used in-line with a ventilator, or for non-ventilated patients. It is a small plastic accessory that is placed on the end of the trach tube at the neck. The internal components of HME’s consist mainly of foam or paper. When the patient inhales, the air flows through the HME (where impurities are filtered) and into the lungs. Once the air is in the lungs, it picks up heat and moisture from the body. As the patient exhales, the HME retains the heat and moisture to provide it to the next inhalation. HME’s should be changed every 24 hours or when visibly soiled. Once the HME becomes soiled, it is no longer able to perform at its maximum capability and needs to be discarded. In cases of excessive secretions, HME’s might not be the best choice.
HME’s give these patients and caregivers the gift of having a little more freedom. They make it easier to go out around town, travel, transport, and for our younger pediatric patients, a playtime without being attached to a heater. These patients are awesome, and they deserve awesome artificial noses to give them as much normalcy and freedom as possible.
There are quite a few different styles of HME’s, here a few of the more common types.