Accuracy of the 7-8-9 Rule for endotracheal tube placement in the neonate

J Perinatol. 2006 Jun;26(6):333-6. doi: 10.1038/


Objective: To determine accuracy of the 7-8-9 Rule in a cohort of neonates.

Study design: This study was cross-sectional in design. Seventy-five consecutive neonates who required oral intubation from June 2004 to November 2004 for cardiopulmonary failure, respiratory distress, or surfactant administration were the subjects of this study. The initial endotracheal tube (ETT) depth of insertion was determined using either an estimated birth weight or actual weight in the 7-8-9 Rule calculation followed by auscultation and subsequent adjustment if necessary. Midtracheal position was identified as the point halfway between the inferior clavicle and carina on a chest radiograph. The initial depth was compared to the midtracheal depth to determine clinical accuracy of the 7-8-9 Rule. The depth predicted by the 7-8-9 Rule was also calculated using only actual weights. This predicted depth was compared to the midtracheal depth to determine true accuracy of the 7-8-9 Rule. Accuracy was determined using mean paired differences with 95% confidence intervals (CI) between initial or predicted depth and ideal, midtracheal ETT depth. Linear regression was used to adjust for confounding variables.

Results: Mean (range) gestational age was 32 weeks (23 to 44 weeks) and weight was 2001 g (490 to 4400 g). Eighteen (24%) infants weighed 1000 g or less, 20 (27%) weighed between 1001 and 2000 g, 21 (28%) weighed between 2001 and 3000 g, 15 (20%) weighed between 3001 and 4000 g, and one (1%) weighed more than 4000 g. Thirteen of the 18 extremely low birth weight infants weighed <750 g. The initial depth of insertion was 0.004 cm above midtracheal position (95% CI -0.13 to 0.14, P = 0.96). After controlling for head position, the initial depth did not significantly differ from the midtracheal position among weight groups. Predicted depth using the 7-8-9 Rule placed the ETT 0.12 cm above midtracheal position (95% CI -0.30 to 0.06, P = 0.20). However, after controlling for head position, the 7-8-9 Rule positioned the ETT significantly below midtracheal position in infants weighing <750 g (mean 0.62 cm; 95% CI 0.30 to 0.93, P=0.002).

Conclusions: The 7-8-9 Rule appears to be an accurate clinical method for endotracheal tube placement in neonates weighing more than 750 g. When the 7-8-9 Rule is applied to infants weighing <750 g, caution is warranted. The current rule may lead to an overestimated depth of insertion and potentially result in clinically significant consequences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / administration & dosage
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / therapy
  • Resuscitation
  • Trachea / diagnostic imaging


  • Pulmonary Surfactants