OBJECTIVE. A multicycle, quality improvement method was used to standardize nasal cannula O2 administration and weaning in the NICU.

METHODS. A 2-armed nasal cannula standardized order form (nasal cannula for stable O2 arm and nasal cannula for stable flow arm) was developed after review of the literature, surveying of the practice of NICU physicians and nurse practitioners, and development of consensus among these providers. Outcomes were measured by tracking the distribution of protocol arm chosen, days on O2, weeks on nasal cannula, and disposition of infants who were supported by nasal cannula. Data were collected in an SPSS statistical data set.

RESULTS. Of the 90 infants evaluated, 12 were supported on the stable O2 arm and 53 on the stable flow arm for their entire nasal cannula course. Twenty-five infants switched between arms of support. Patients who were on the stable flow arm of the standard order set for their entire nasal cannula course experienced fewer O2 days but more days on nasal cannula. A subpopulation of infants were supported on nasal cannula flow 0.5 to 1.0 L, with fraction of inspired O2 of 21%. When data from the first 10 weeks of observation were compared with that of the second 10 weeks, the rate of discharge on O2 had decreased from 13 (30%) of 44 to 3 (7%) of 39.

CONCLUSIONS. The multiple steps of literature review, practice surveys, and consensus-building resulted in enthusiastic reception of the nasal cannula standardized order form. The 2-armed nasal cannula protocol forced caregivers to consider which method of support was most beneficial for each infant who was on nasal cannula and allowed a subpopulation of NICU patients to be supported with a lower fraction of inspired O2 than previously used in the NICU.

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