Purpose: To evaluate, in adults, the diagnostic accuracy of the cuff-leak test for the diagnosis of upper airway obstruction secondary to laryngeal edema and for reintubation secondary to upper airway obstruction.
Methods: Systematic review without language restrictions based on electronic databases and manual review of the literature up to December 2008. When appropriate, a random-effects meta-analysis and meta-regression (Moses' method) were performed.
Results: Upper airway obstruction was the outcome in nine studies with an overall incidence of 6.9%. There was significant heterogeneity among studies. The pooled sensitivity was 0.56 (95% confidence interval: 0.48-0.63), the specificity was 0.92 (95% CI: 0.90-0.93), the positive likelihood ratio was 5.90 (95% CI: 4.00-8.69), the negative likelihood ratio was 0.48 (95% CI: 0.33-0.72), and the diagnostic odds ratio was 18.78 (95% CI: 7.36-47.92). The area under the curve of the summary receiver-operator characteristic (SROC) was 0.92 (95% CI: 0.89-0.94). Only three studies have evaluated the accuracy of the cuff-leak test for reintubation secondary to upper airway obstruction. Overall incidence was 7%. The pooled sensitivity was 0.63 (95% CI: 0.38-0.84), the specificity was 0.86 (95% CI: 0.81-0.90), the positive likelihood ratio was 4.04 (95% CI: 2.21-7.40), the negative likelihood ratio was 0.46 (95% CI: 0.26-0.82), and the diagnostic odds ratio was 10.37 (95% CI: 3.70-29.13).
Conclusions: A positive cuff-leak test (absence of leak) should alert the clinician of a high risk of upper airway obstruction.