Blood flow in the rabbit tracheal mucosa under normal conditions and under the influence of tracheal intubation

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 1977;21(2):81-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.1977.tb01198.x.


Isotope labelled microspheres were used to study the capillary blood perfusion of the rabbit tracheal mucosa. Under resting conditions the perfusion was about 0.3 ml/min - g (i.e. about 60% of the relative cerebral blood flow). Irritation of the tracheal mucosa by an endotracheal tube caused a steep rise in blood flow, tenfold or more. This was probably due to relaxation of the arterioles caused by a release of histamine-like substances. When an endotracheal tube is equipped with a small cuff (small resting diameter, low residual volume), the part of the mucosa in contact with the cuff, i.e. the mucosa covering the surface and edges of the cartilages, will be ischaemic at a cuff to tracheal wall pressure (C-T pressure) of greater than 30 millimeters of mercury. This abrupt ischaemia threshold contributes to the risk of deep mucosal damage with subsequent tracheal scarring, possibly proceeding to stenosis. Our present studies indicate that the ideal large cuff, with properties resembling those of an air cushion, will allow the major part of the arterial pressure to be propagated as far down as the capillaries. Under these conditions the cuff would permit some of the capillary blood perfusion of the tracheal mucosa covering the cartilages also at C-T pressures exceeding 30 mmHg. Although this investigation supports the concept that the ideal thin-walled large cuff interferes much less with the mucosal blood perfusion than the small cuff, we recommend that the cuff pressure be monitored and kept below 20 mmHg.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / anatomy & histology
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Cardiac Output
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Microcirculation
  • Mucous Membrane / blood supply
  • Perfusion
  • Pressure
  • Rabbits
  • Radiography
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Trachea / blood supply*
  • Trachea / diagnostic imaging