Single Nasal Cannula for Supplemental Oxygen Therapy

There's a new oxygen delivery device available for people with COPD who are on supplemental oxygen. It's quite simple really -- a single nasal cannula tubing that fits into only one nostril and over one ear, rather than on both sides. It's called the Uni-flo2 system and was developed by a respiratory therapist, Campbell Cauthen, in conjunction with UPODS, LLC.

This innovative new device was designed with the patient in mind, and to ensure continuous oxygen flow to dual-pronged cannulas, but with only half the skin contact. According to the company website, these 4 factors were taken into consideration during the design process:

  • Effective oxygen delivery. With the less intrusive single prong that still delivers the same amount of oxygen, you may be more inclined to keep it in place as prescribed.
  • Patient comfort & dignity. It's lighter weight, adjustable to either nostril and less noticeable. It's potentially easier to wear and more comfortable.
  • Less irritation. Because there is less skin contact, both in the nostril and around the ear, there is less risk of skin irritation.
  • Reliability. The cannula has a memory stabilization system that allows it to adjust to your facial contours and to avoid tugging or pulling.

Clinical results for the uni-flo2

The company has conducted a small study with 121 patients to measure how well the single prong cannula delivers oxygen versus a double-prong type and also to look at patient satisfaction. Here are a few details about the participants:

  • Ages ranged from 46-99 years
  • 44% were female; 56% were male
  • 62% had been on oxygen 3 or more years, with the rest evenly split between less than 1 year and 1-2 years
  • 48% used a flow rate of 1-2 LPM; 29% had 2-3 LPM; remainder had flow rates of 3-6 LPM

One of the measures of effectiveness the company looked at was pulse oximetry. This involved measuring the level of oxygen in the blood using a small handheld device called a pulse oximeter. Comparisons were made of the oxygen level while using a traditional two-prong cannula for 10-15 minutes and then again using the new single-prong cannula. 70 of the original 121 patients participated in this section of the study.

The results showed that 57% of the participants had a higher pulse oximetry reading with the single-prong cannula, at a statistically significant level.

Patient feedback for a single-prong cannula

Scientists also looked at subjective patient satisfaction, first with the dual-prong system and then again with the Uni-Flo2 cannula. They asked a series of questions designed to elicit issues with the traditional type of cannula, interest in an alternative delivery system and then satisfaction with the new system.

90% of the respondents definitely reported such things as the following in their experience with dual-prong cannulas:

  • Irritation around nostrils and ears
  • Pulling on the neck from the tubing
  • Having to remove the cannula to eat or drink

100% were interested in learning more about a single-prong cannula. And when they tested it, 98% were pleased and considered the Uni-Flo2 to be comfortable, stable and secure. They also cited:

  • Greater comfort
  • Better freedom of movement
  • Improved sleep
  • Ease of eating
  • Enhanced ability to smell
  • Enhanced personal appearance
  • Decreased facial skin irritation

Mike M., from Wichita Falls, TX reported, "The Uni-flo2 cannula is perfect for my challenge with COPD. I am missing cartilage in my right ear so I can't use a two prong cannula without taping it on. The Uni-flo2 single prong cannula gives me the POX I need and increased comfort wearing it. I don't have the bulky two prong tubing on my face and around my throat. Best cannula I have ever used."

And Barbara M., from Las Vegas, NV said, "I am in my mid-40s suffering with lung fibrosis, and dependent on oxygen. For years I have wanted to wear a nasal cannula that is lightweight, comfortable, not all over my face, and discrete. When I first used the Uni-flo2 nasal cannula I knew I had found the perfect nasal cannula.  I can hardly tell I'm wearing it, and now I can even smell my meals and the spring flowers. I just love it!"

More research is needed

The study reported here does have some limitations. It's quite small in scope and was conducted by the company that developed the product, although they did bring in an independent statistician. Clearly, more independent research is needed to truly prove the efficacy of this new oxygen delivery approach.

The cannulas are for sale on the company website and looked to be priced quite affordably. You may even be able to obtain one to test out from your local oxygen supplier. I'd love to hear comments back here from anyone who tries it out.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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