Intracuff pressures of endotracheal tubes in the management of airway emergencies: the need for pressure monitoring

Ann Emerg Med. 2006 Jun;47(6):545-7. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2005.08.012. Epub 2005 Oct 17.


Study objective: Excessive pressure exerted on the tracheal mucosa is an avoidable factor implicated as a cause of damage after intubation of the trachea with cuffed tubes. Many patients are intubated in the out-of-hospital setting by emergency medical teams. The time spent in the out-of-hospital setting could very well be long enough for tracheal mucosal damage to occur if cuff pressure is not controlled. The objective of this study is to assess the incidence of intracuff excessive pressure in the out-of-hospital setting.

Methods: We performed an observational prospective study. Every patient who required tracheal intubation was included in the study, regardless of indication. When the patient was stabilized, the cuff was connected to a manometer, and pressure was systematically recorded. Corrections to inflation were performed if necessary to achieve a cuff pressure of 14 to 27 cm H2O.

Results: One hundred seven patients were included. Eighty-five were out-of-hospital patients and 22 were transfers between 2 hospitals who had been previously intubated when the mobile intensive care unit team arrived. The first recorded cuff pressures were greater than 27 cm H2O among 79% of patients (85/107), with a mean pressure of 56 cm H2O (SD+/-34 cm H2O) in out-of-hospital patients and 69 cm H2O (SD+/-37 cm H2O) for transferred patients. Pressure correction was made in 72% of patients (77/107). There were corrections in 69% (59/85) of out-of-hospital patients and 82% (18/22) of transferred patients.

Conclusion: This study revealed that the majority of cuff pressures exceeded safe pressure and required correction. Frequent measurement and adjustment of cuff pressure has been recommended, but this method requires a specific manometer.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data
  • Pressure
  • Prospective Studies
  • Trachea / injuries