Background: In children, the cricoid is considered the narrowest portion of the "funnel-shaped" airway. Growth and development lead to a transition to the more cylindrical adult airway. A number of airway decisions in pediatric airway practice are based on this transition from the pediatric to the adult airway. Our primary aim in this study was to measure airway dimensions in children of various ages. The measures of the glottis and cricoid regions were used to determine whether a transition from the funnel-shaped pediatric airway to the cylindrical adult airway could be identified based on images obtained from video bronchoscopy.
Methods: One hundred thirty-five children (ASA physical status 1 or 2) aged 6 mo to 13 yr were enrolled for measurement of laryngeal dimensions, including cross-sectional area (G-CSA), anteroposterior and transverse diameters at the level of the glottis and the cricoid (C-CSA), using the video bronchoscopic technique under general anesthesia.
Results: Of the 135 children enrolled in the study, seven patients were excluded from the analysis mainly because of poor image quality. Of the 128 children studied (79 boys and 49 girls), mean values (+/-standard deviation) for the demographic data were age 5.9 (+/-3.3) yr, height 113.5 (+/-22.2) cm and weight 23.5 (+/-13) kg. Overall, the mean C-CSA was larger than the G-CSA (48.9 +/- 15.5 mm(2) vs 30 +/- 16.5 mm(2), respectively). This relationship was maintained throughout the study population starting from 6 mo of age (P < 0.001, r = 0.45, power = 1). The mean ratio for C-CSA: G-CSA was 2.1 +/- 1.2. There was a positive correlation between G- and the C-CSA versus age (r = 0.36, P < 0.001; r = 0.27, P = 0.001, respectively), height (r = 0.34, P < 0.001; r = 0.29, P < 0.001, respectively), and weight (r = 0.35, P < 0.001; r = 0.25, P = 0.003, respectively). No significant gender differences in the mean values of the studied variables were observed.
Conclusion: In this study of infants and children, the glottis rather than cricoid was the narrowest portion of the pediatric airway. Similar to adults, the pediatric airway is more cylindrical than funnel shaped based on these video bronchoscopic images. Further studies are needed to determine whether these static airway measurements in anesthetized and paralyzed children reflect the dynamic characteristics of the glottis and cricoid in children.