Users Online: 2655 Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size  
Home | About us | Editorial board | Search | Ahead of print | Current issue | Archives | Submit article | Instructions | Subscribe | Contacts | Login 

RSACP wishes to inform that it shall be discontinuing the dispatch of print copy of JOACP to it's Life members. The print copy of JOACP will be posted only to those life members who send us a written confirmation for continuation of print copy.
Kindly email your affirmation for print copies to [email protected] preferably by 30th June 2019.


Table of Contents
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 459

Endotracheal tube leak: What should we do?

Department of Anesthesiology, Dr. BRAIRCH, AIIMS, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication5-Nov-2015

Correspondence Address:
Nishkarsh Gupta
Department of Anesthesiology, Dr. BRAIRCH, AIIMS, New Delhi
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9185.169051

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Gupta N. Endotracheal tube leak: What should we do? . J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2015;31:459

How to cite this URL:
Gupta N. Endotracheal tube leak: What should we do? . J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Oct 30];31:459. Available from:

Leakage around an endotracheal tube (ETT) is a common problem encountered in the operating room (OR) and the intensive care unit (ICU). The incidence of air leak has been reported to be as high as 11% in ICU. [1] The effects may vary from bubbling sound to inability to ventilate, life threatening hypoxemia, or atmospheric pollution with the leaked anesthetic mixture or a decreased delivery of anesthetic mixture resulting in an inadequate depth of anesthesia. [2] However, there are no standard guidelines for prevention and management of ETT leaks. ETT leaks may occur without any manufacturing defect. Many a time, it is due to defective inflation system (valve, pilot balloon or inflation line), damage in the ETT body/connector or defects in the cuff itself. Most of these defects occur due to wear and tear in the ETT cuff/inflation system, due to reuse or mishandling of single use ETT. In this issue, R. Sachdeva & N Bhatia, [3] have reported an interesting method (underwater testing of ETT after occluding its tip) to detect leaks due to unusual manufacturing defects in the ETT.

Preuse check of sterile single use ETT is controversial because opening a sterile ETT may contaminate the ETT and predispose the patient to subsequent ventilator-associated pneumonia. American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) House of Delegates in their statement has suggested that a single use ETT can be opened to check for any manufacturing defect and possible cuff leak.

A thorough preuse check should be done before using any ETT and include visual inspection to check the patency of its lumen and rule out any manufacturing defect. Also, one should check the cuff to ensure that it inflates symmetrically and is not damaged. Many a times, such a defect is missed in preuse check and the problem manifests intraoperatively during surgery. [4] At that time, it may be technically difficult (prone position, head, and neck surgery) and challenging to change the ETT, especially in cases of preexisting difficult airway. Some authors have suggested simple measures to reduce ETT leak like pharyngeal packing, continuous inflation through the inflation channel and inflating the pilot balloon with saline and lignocaine mixture have been tried with limited success. Most of these methods are temporary and have limitations, like inability to completely eliminate leak and risk of aspiration. [5] Despite the above mentioned methods, the ETT cuff leak may persist, and we may have to resort to exchange of the ETT during surgery. [6] Before attempting an exchange of ETT during surgery, the difficult airway cart should be arranged, and oxygen insufflation provided through nasal cannula or a catheter to reduce the chances of desaturation. It may be prudent to exchange the ETT over a conduit (airway exchange catheter, fiberoptic bronchoscope) to prevent loss of a secure airway and increase the chances of successful re-intubation.

In conclusion, it is important to check the ETT cuff and inflation tubing prior to its use. We should be vigilant and have a systematic plan to identify the cause and manage it, in case of inadequate ventilation intraoperatively.

  References Top

Stauffer JL, Olson DE, Petty TL. Complications and consequences of endotracheal intubation and tracheotomy. A prospective study of 150 critically ill adult patients. Am J Med 1981;70:65-76.  Back to cited text no. 1
Kearl RA, Hooper RG. Massive airway leaks: An analysis of the role of endotracheal tubes. Crit Care Med 1993;21:518-21.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ritu Sachdeva, Nidhi Bhatia. All that appears well is not well: A novel method to detect an unusual manufacturing defect of the endotracheal tube. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2015;31:568.  Back to cited text no. 3
Gettelman TA, Morris GN. Endotracheal tube failure: Undetected by routine testing. Anesth Analg 1995;81:1313.  Back to cited text no. 4
Dorsch JA, Dorsch SE: Tracheal tubes. In Dorsch JA, Dorsch SE, editors: Understanding Anesthesia Equipment, ed 4 th , Baltimore 1999, Williams and Wilkins, p. 557-678.  Back to cited text no. 5
Ho AM, Contardi LH. What to do when an endotracheal tube cuff leaks. J Trauma 1996;40:486-7.  Back to cited text no. 6

This article has been cited by
1 Safe Operation Theatre and Intensive Care Unit during COVID-19 Pandemic: An Innovative Way to Widen the Safety Net
Anurag Garg,Vikas K. Shankhyan,Ajai Chandra,Vivek B. Sharma,Ravi Anadure
Journal of Neuroanaesthesiology and Critical Care. 2020;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Air leak from a tracheal tube after intubation: a review
J. A. Cabrera
Anaesthesia. 2019; 74(9): 1194
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Endotracheal tube size to leakage ventilation and tracheal dilatation
Jung-Rern Jiang,Shiao-Yu Yen,Pei-Fu Chiang,Hsiao-Chien Liu
Journal of Anesthesia. 2018;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded426    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 3    

Recommend this journal