Background: Uncuffed endotracheal tubes are routinely used in young children. This study tests a formula for selecting appropriately sized cuffed endotracheal tubes and compares the use of cuffed versus uncuffed endotracheal tubes for patients whose lungs are mechanically ventilated during anesthesia.
Methods: Full-term newborns and children (n = 488) through 8 yr of age who required general anesthesia and tracheal intubation were assigned randomly to receive either a cuffed tube sized by a new formula [size(mm internal diameter) = (age/4) + 3], or an uncuffed tube sized by the modified Cole's formula [size(mm internal diameter) = (age/4) + 4]. The number of intubations required to achieve an appropriately sized tube, the need to use more than 21.min-1 fresh gas flow, the concentration of nitrous oxide in the operating room, and the incidence of croup were compared.
Results: Cuffed tubes selected by our formula were appropriate for 99% of patients. Uncuffed tubes selected by Cole's formula were appropriate for 77% of patients (P < 0.001). The lungs of patients with cuffed tubes were adequately ventilated with 2 1.min-1 fresh gas flow, whereas 11% of those with uncuffed tubes needed greater fresh gas flow (P < 0.001). Ambient nitrous oxide concentration exceeded 25 parts per million in 37% of cases with uncuffed tubes and in 0% of cases with cuffed tubes (P < 0.001). Three patients in each group were treated for croup symptoms (1.2% cuffed; 1.3% uncuffed).
Conclusions: Our formula for cuffed tube selection is appropriate for young children. Advantages of cuffed endotracheal tubes include avoidance of repeated laryngoscopy, use of low fresh gas flow, and reduction of the concentration of anesthetics detectable in the operating room. We conclude that cuffed endotracheal tubes may be used routinely during controlled ventilation in full-term newborns and children during anesthesia.