Endotracheal tube cuff pressure assessment: pitfalls of finger estimation and need for objective measurement

Crit Care Med. 1990 Dec;18(12):1423-6.


Estimation of endotracheal (ET) cuff pressure by finger palpation is one of the methods currently used in the clinical setting. We compared the accuracy of this method with instrumental intracuff pressure measurement in tracheal model tests by 20 members of our ICU team. Four different ET tubes at three different pressure levels were examined. Accuracy for the estimated method by finger palpation was 69% for high pressures, 58% for normal pressures, and 73% for low pressures. We observed differences in terms of sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive power between different tubes reflecting differences in tube characteristics and interobserver variability. We conclude that precise intracuff pressure measurement is mandatory to prevent complications of over- or underinflation.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / adverse effects*
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation
  • Manometry / methods
  • Manometry / standards
  • Observer Variation
  • Palpation / methods
  • Palpation / standards*
  • Personnel, Hospital / standards
  • Pressure*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trachea / injuries*
  • Transducers, Pressure / standards
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*