Background: This quality improvement (QI) project was performed at a single center to determine the incidence of postoperative complications associated with use of cuffed airway devices. An educational program was then completed that involved training our anesthesia providers about complications related to excessive cuff pressure and how to utilize a quantitative cuff pressure measurement device (manometer). The impact of this educational initiative was assessed by comparing the incidence of postoperative complications associated with the use of airway devices before and after the training period.
Methods: After approval by our institution's Institutional Review Board, a pre-intervention (baseline) survey was obtained from 259 adult patients after having undergone surgery with general anesthesia with the use of an endotracheal tube (ETT) or laryngeal mask airway (LMA). Survey responses were used to determine the baseline incidence of sore throat, hoarseness, and dysphagia. Once these results were obtained, education was provided to the anesthesia department members addressing the complications associated with excessive cuff pressures, appropriate cuff pressures based on manufacturer recommendations, and instructions on the use of a quantitative monitor to determine cuff pressure (manometry). Clinical care was then changed by requiring intraoperative cuff pressure monitoring throughout our institution for all surgical patients. After this educational period, 299 patients completed the same survey describing postoperative airway complications.
Results: The use of manometry reduced the incidence of moderate-to-severe postoperative sore throat in the pre- vs. post-intervention groups (35 patients vs 31 patients, p = 0.045), moderate to severe hoarseness (30 patients vs 13, patients p = 0.0001), and moderate-to-severe dysphagia (13 patients vs 5 patients, p = 0.03).
Conclusion: Caring for patients in the perioperative setting frequently entails placement of an airway device. This procedure is associated with several potential complications, including sore throat, coughing, and vocal cord damage. Our quality improvement initiative has shown that intraoperative management of intra-cuff pressure based on manometry is feasible to implement in clinical practice and can reduce postoperative airway complications.
Keywords: Cough; Cuff pressure; Manometry; Sore throat; Vocal cord damage.