Pressures within air-filled tracheal cuffs at altitude--an in vivo study

Anaesthesia. 2004 Mar;59(3):252-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2004.03609.x.


Aeromedical transport of mechanically ventilated critically ill patients is now a frequent occurrence. However, the performance of the air filled tracheal tube cuff at altitude has not been studied in vivo. We measured the tracheal cuff pressures at ground level and at 3000 ft, in 10 intubated patients. With air providing the seal in the cuff the mean rise in cuff pressure was 23 cmH2O, which took the pressures above the critical perfusion pressure of the tracheal mucosa. This could lead to tracheal injury.

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine
  • Air Ambulances*
  • Air Pressure*
  • Altitude*
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Trachea / physiopathology