Introduction: Prolonged endotracheal tube cuff pressures (ETTCPs) greater than 30 cm H(2)O cause complications ranging from sore throat to rare cases of tracheoesophageal fistula. In a series of patients, we sought to determine the proportion of patients with overinflated cuffs and to determine whether overinflation was associated with demographics, diagnostic category, or intubator credentials.
Methods: Between July 2007 and April 2008, we measured cuff pressures on a convenience sample of patients drawn from 2 groups. The "helicopter group" had pressure measured before transport by a single aeromedical transport service. The "hospital group" had pressure measured upon arrival to 1 of 2 emergency departments after being intubated before transport.
Results: Three hundred patients aged 4 to 92 years (median, 57) were studied: 59.7% were male; and diagnostic categories were neurologic (33.7%), trauma (32.7%), cardiac (12.7%), and general medical/surgical (21.0%). Intubation occurred 1 to 28 000 minutes before ETTCP assessment (median, 60). Endotracheal tube cuff pressure was greater than 30 cm H(2)O in 64.7% and ranged from 10 to 180 (median, 40). Forty-nine percent of patients had ETTCP greater than 40 cm H(2)O. There was no association between ETTCP and age group, sex, diagnostic category, ETT size, time between intubation and ETTCP assessment, or intubator credentials.
Conclusions: The most compelling results of the study are the high rates of elevated ETTCPs. Furthermore, there were no clear risk factors for elevated ETTCP. Although the risk of elevated ETTCP in the prehospital to acute care time frame is unclear, it seems reasonable to measure ETTCP after intubation in all patients.