The cuff leak test to predict failure of tracheal extubation for laryngeal edema

Intensive Care Med. 2002 Sep;28(9):1267-72. doi: 10.1007/s00134-002-1422-3. Epub 2002 Aug 10.


Objective: Laryngeal edema secondary to endotracheal intubation may require early re-intubation. Prior to extubation the absence of leak around an endotracheal tube may predict laryngeal edema after extubation. We evaluated the usefulness of a quantitative assessment of such a leak to identify the patients who will require early re-intubation for laryngeal edema.

Methods: This prospective study included 76 patients with endotracheal intubation for more than 12 h. The leak, in percent, was defined as the difference between expired tidal volume measured just before extubation, in volume-controlled mode, with the cuff inflated and then deflated. The best cut-off value to predict the need for re-intubation for significant laryngeal edema was determined and the patients were divided into two groups, according to this cut-off value.

Results: Eight of the 76 patients (11%) needed re-intubation for laryngeal edema. Patients requiring re-intubation had a smaller leak than the other patients [9 (3-18) vs 35 (13-53)%, p<0.01]. The best cut-off value for gas leak was 15.5%. The high leak group included 51 patients, of whom only two patients (3%) required re-intubation. The low leak group included 25 patients, among whom six patients (24%) required re-intubation ( p<0.01). The sensitivity of this test was 75%, the specificity 72.1%, the positive predictive value 25%, the negative predictive value 96.1% and the percent of correct classification 72.4%.

Conclusions: A gas leak around the endotracheal tube greater than 15.5% can be used as a screening test to limit the risk of re-intubation for laryngeal edema.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Belgium
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects*
  • Laryngeal Edema / physiopathology
  • Laryngeal Edema / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tidal Volume