Background: Although evidence suggests that secretions lining the inner wall of the endotracheal tube (ETT) often reduce its cross-sectional area, no data are available on the work of breathing as affected by the ETT. A noninvasive method is proposed for estimating the additional work of breathing necessitated by the ETT in patients whose lungs are mechanically ventilated. This method (the acoustic-Blasius method) involves (1) determining the inner geometry of the ETT using the acoustic reflection method and (2) using these geometric data to solve the Blasius equation that characterizes the ETT pressure drop-flow relation.
Methods: To evaluate the acoustic-Blasius method in vivo, the authors computed the work of breathing due to the ETT in four healthy persons breathing through an ETT connected to a pressure-support device and in five tracheally intubated patients receiving mechanical assistance in the pressure-support mode. For the tracheally intubated patients, the reference value was the work calculated from the ETT pressure drop measured between the two ends of the ETT using a pressure catheter.
Results: In the healthy participants and the tracheally intubated patients, there was close agreement between inspiratory work per cycle values estimated by directly measuring the ETT pressure drop and calculated using the acoustic-Blasius method: The difference was consistently less than 0.08 joules (< 10% of the reference value).
Conclusions: The data show that the acoustic-Blasius method allows noninvasive quantification of the ETT-related work of breathing in situ.