Experienced emergency medicine physicians cannot safely inflate or estimate endotracheal tube cuff pressure using standard techniques



      Tracheal necrosis, stenosis, and rupture may result from overinflated endotracheal tube cuffs (ETTcs). We sought to determine the ability of faculty emergency medicine (EM) physicians to safely inflate ETTc as well as to estimate pressure of previously inflated ETTc.


      Using a previously tested tracheal simulation model, we assessed EM physician inflation of ETTc pilot balloons. Participants also palpated the pilot balloon of 9 ETTc inflated to pressures ranging from extremely low to extremely high in a random order and reported their estimate of pressure.


      We sampled 41 faculty EM physicians from 5 EM residency programs. Using palpation, participants were only 22% sensitive detecting overinflated ETTc. The average ETTc pressure produced by inflation was more than 93 cm H2O (normal, 15-25 cm H2O).


      Participants were unable to inflate ETTc to safe pressures or estimate pressure of ETTc by palpation. Clinicians should consider using devices to facilitate safe inflation and accurate measurement of ETTc pressure.
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