Factors associated with reintubation in intensive care: an analysis of causes and outcomes

Chest. 2001 Aug;120(2):538-42. doi: 10.1378/chest.120.2.538.


Introduction: Reports on reintubation have focused on patients in whom planned extubation has been unsuccessful or those who have been accidentally extubated. However, reintubation is often required in events not related to accidental extubation. These cases have not been well described previously.

Objectives: To examine the causes, outcomes, and contributing factors associated with patients who required reintubation for events not including accidental extubation.

Methods: Appropriate reintubation incidents were extracted from the Australian Incident Monitoring Study in Intensive Care database and analyzed using descriptive methodology.

Results: One hundred forty-three incidents were identified with prominent precipitating events, including tube malposition (17%), securing/taping problems (17%), pilot tube/cuff problem (16%), blocked/kinked airway (14%), failed extubation (14%), and poor planning for extubation (6%). Narrative description of morbidity included hypoxia in 25% of reports, hypercarbic respiratory failure in 12%, aspiration in 7%, sputum retention in 7%, and cardiac arrhythmias in 6%. The reporter selected "major physiologic complications" and "prolonged hospital stay" as prominent adverse outcomes in 52% and 16% of patients, respectively. Major factors contributing to reintubation involved "error of judgement/problem recognition" (identified in 62% of reports), "high unit activity" (20%), "difficult patient habitus" (26%), and "lack of patient cooperation" (14%). Rechecking patient and equipment, and skilled assistance were prominent factors in limiting the adverse consequences of the incident.

Conclusion: This study indicated that reintubation not related to accidental extubation resulted in major physiologic complications and potentially contributed to increased length of stay. Its findings suggest that the adequate provision of highly qualified, intensive-care-trained staff is essential for the avoidance or minimization of these incidents.

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Critical Care*
  • Equipment Failure
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Iatrogenic Disease
  • Inhalation
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Length of Stay
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Risk Management
  • Sputum