A heat/ moisture exchanger also known as an HME is a tiny cap that fits over the opening to the trach tube and has a sponge or absorbent material inside. How it works to moisturize the airway is very simple. When you exhale thru the HME, it captures your exhaled heat and moisture and on your next breath, it delivers that back to your airway. This way of delivering moisture is very efficient and portable. HME’S are disposable and need no cleaning. They are appropriate for patients who can have their trach opening covered and can still breathe (for some, anything that covers the opening to the trach can obstruct breathing). It is appropriate for patients who do not have copious secretions (mucus). It is recommended that this be ordered by a physician and that you be trialed on it in a controlled setting before you use it at home. If it is used and the patient cannot tolerate it, you can simply remove it and use large volume humidification is lieu of the HME.
Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist
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