The future of the cuffed endotracheal tube

Paediatr Anaesth. 2004 Jan;14(1):38-42. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9592.2003.01203.x.


It has been traditionally taught that only uncuffed endotracheal tubes (ETTs) should be used for intubation in children younger than 8, or even 10, years old. However, recent literature suggests that the advantages of using uncuffed ETTs in children may be just another myth of paediatric anaesthesia. Using an uncuffed ETT does allow a tube of larger internal diameter to be used, minimizing resistance to airflow and the work of breathing in the patient who is breathing spontaneously. However, this advantage does not hold for ventilated patients, for whom ventilator settings can be adjusted to provide optimal airflow. Longer duration of intubation and a poorly fitted ETT are risk factors for mucosal damage, whether the ETT is cuffed or uncuffed. Furthermore, a properly sized, positioned, and inflated modern (low-pressure, high-volume) cuffed ETT can offer many advantages over an uncuffed ETT, including greater ease of intubation, better control of air leakage, lower rate and better control of flow of anaesthetic gases, and decreased risk of aspiration and infection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Period
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / trends