Introduction. Endotracheal tube (ETT) cuff pressure is not usually measured by manometer and the providers rely on their estimation of cuff pressure by palpating the pilot balloon. In this study, we evaluated the pressure of ETT cuffs inserted by emergency physicians or anesthesiologists, and assessed the accuracy of manual pressure testing in different settings using a standard manometer.
Methods. In this cross sectional study, the cuff pressure of 100 patients in emergency department (ED) and intensive care units (ICU) of two university hospitals was evaluated by using a sensitive and accurate analog standard manometer after insertion of the ETT and checking the pilot balloon by the provider. All measurements were performed by a person who was blinded to the study purpose and an ideal pressure range of 20 to 30 cmH2O was used for analysis.
Results. Emergency physicians (n=58) and anesthesiologists (n=42) performed the intubations. The mean measured cuff pressure in our study was 69.2±29.8 cmH2O (range: 10-120 cmH2O) which was significantly different from the recommended standard value of 25 cmH2O (P<0.0001, one-sample t-test). No difference was found between anesthesiologists and emergency physicians in cuff inflation pressures (Anesthesiologists = 71.1 ± 25.7; Emergency physicians = 67.9±32.6).
Conclusion. Estimation of cuff pressure using palpation techniques is not accurate. In order to prevent adverse effects of cuff overinflation, it is better to recheck the pressure using a manometer, regardless of place, time and the inserter of the endotracheal tube.
Key words: endotracheal tube, cuff pressure, emergency physicians, anesthesiologist