Radiological validation of tracheal tube insertion depth in out-of-hospital and in-hospital emergency patients

Anaesthesia. 2009 Sep;64(9):973-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2009.06007.x.


We performed a 5-year, retrospective study using records of 1081 patients admitted to the trauma emergency room at a University Hospital to investigate the occurrence of tracheal tube malpositioning after emergency intubation in both the inpatient and outpatient settings, using chest radiographs and CT scans in the trauma emergency room. Prehospital patients and inpatients referred from peripheral hospitals were compared. This study showed that tracheal tube misplacements occur with an incidence of 18.2%, of which almost a third (5.7%) were placed in a main bronchus. We further show that tracheal intubation in emergency patients approximates the misplacement rates in the prehospital or in-hospital settings. We speculate that the skill level of the operator may be critical in determining the success of tracheal intubation. Based on our findings, all efforts should be made to verify the tube position with immediate radiographic confirmation after admission to the emergency room.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Bronchi
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnostic imaging
  • Foreign Bodies / etiology
  • Germany
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / standards*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Partial Pressure
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen