Objective: To compare suprasternal palpation, a previously described bedside technique, with standard chest radiography for correct positioning of the endotracheal tube (ETT) in newborn infants.
Study design: A randomized single-blinded study in an academic medical center. Preterm and term newborn infants requiring intubation were eligible, provided that they had not had their initial chest roentgenogram (CXR). Infants were randomized to ETT palpation and non-adjustment (Controls), or to ETT palpation and adjustment (Treatment), following digital palpation of the ETT tip in the suprasternal notch. ETT position was considered correct when only the tip of the ETT was palpable in the suprasternal notch. ETT position by CXR was blindly assessed by an experienced pediatric radiologist.
Results: Fifty-five infants were enrolled in the delivery room or neonatal intensive care unit. Correct tube placements improved from 48% pre-study to 85 and 93% in the Control and Treatment arms, respectively. The majority of incorrect estimations were that the ETT position using palpation was judged to be too low when it was, in fact, in correct position, as noted in 11 infants. ETT palpation had a 70% concordance with the position determined by CXR. No difficulties or complications were associated with the use of suprasternal palpation.
Conclusions: Suprasternal palpation is a simple, safe, teachable, method of confirming ETT position in neonates when CXR is unavailable, and may especially helpful during neonatal resuscitation prior to surfactant administration.