The use of cuffed versus uncuffed endotracheal tubes in pediatric intensive care

J Pediatr. 2004 Mar;144(3):333-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2003.12.018.


Objective: To report our experience with cuffed endotracheal tubes (ETT) in a large cohort of critically ill children. Study design We prospectively collected data over a 1-year period concerning long-term intubation on 860 critically ill children admitted to our intensive care unit. Tube sizes were dictated by the modified Cole formula for uncuffed ETT (age [y]/4+4 mm ID) and chosen one-half size less for cuffed ETT. Cuff pressure was regularly monitored to maintain a small leak at peak inspiratory pressure. The choice of ETT was made by the physician responsible for the initial airway management.

Results: There were 597 patients in the first 5 years of life, with 210 having cuffed ETT. There were no significant differences in the use of racemic epinephrine for postextubation subglottic edema, the rate of successful extubation or the need for tracheotomy between those with cuffed and uncuffed ETT in any age group.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that the traditional teaching in pediatric anesthesia and intensive care, including current pediatric life support recommendations, need to be reviewed for children to benefit from the advantages of modern low-pressure cuffed ETT during critical illnesses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal* / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal* / instrumentation
  • Intubation, Intratracheal* / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*