Work of breathing for cuffed and uncuffed pediatric endotracheal tubes in an in vitro lung model setting

Paediatr Anaesth. 2018 Sep;28(9):780-787. doi: 10.1111/pan.13430. Epub 2018 Jul 13.


Background: Over the last decade, cuffed endotracheal tubes are increasingly used in pediatric anesthesia and also in pediatric intensive care. However, the smaller inner diameter of cuffed endotracheal tubes and, implicitly, the increased endotracheal tube resistance is still a matter of debate.

Aims: This in vitro study investigated work of breathing and inspiratory airway pressures in cuffed and uncuffed endotracheal tubes and the impact of pressure support ventilation and automatic tube compensation.

Methods: In 5 simulated neonatal and pediatric lung models, the Active Servo Lung 5000 and an intensive care ventilator were used to quantify the differences in work of breathing under spontaneous breathing (with and without pressure support ventilation and automatic tube compensation) between cuffed and uncuffed endotracheal tubes. Additionally, differences in inspiratory airway pressures, measured either proximal or distal of the endotracheal tube, between cuffed and uncuffed endotracheal tubes under mechanical ventilation were investigated.

Results: Work of breathing was overall 10.27% [95% confidence interval 9.01-11.94] higher with cuffed than with uncuffed endotracheal tubes and was dramatically reduced by 34.19% [95% confidence interval 31.61-35.25] with the application of pressure support. Automatic tube compensation almost diminished work of breathing differences between the 2 endotracheal tube types in nearly all pediatric lung models. Peak inspiratory and mean airway pressures measured at the proximal endotracheal tube end revealed significantly higher values in cuffed than in uncuffed endotracheal tubes. However, these differences measured at the distal end of the endotracheal tube became minimal.

Conclusion: This in vitro study confirmed significant differences in work of breathing and inspiratory pressures between cuffed and uncuffed endotracheal tubes. Work of breathing, however, is almost neutralized by pressure support ventilation with automatic tube compensation and distal inspiratory airway pressures that, from a clinical perspective, are not significantly increased.

Keywords: cuffed vs uncuffed endotracheal tubes; inspiratory airway pressure; work of breathing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Airway Resistance
  • Child
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / instrumentation*
  • Lung / anatomy & histology
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Positive-Pressure Respiration / instrumentation*
  • Tidal Volume
  • Ventilators, Mechanical
  • Work of Breathing / physiology*