• Anaesthesia · May 2020

    Review

    Tracheal tube size in adults undergoing elective surgery - a narrative review.

    In this review, Karmali & Rose challenge the dogma surrounding endotracheal tube sizing for adult anaesthesia, traditionally sizing based on sex.

    What did they cover?

    They explored both the functional consequences (good and bad) of ETT size, as well as airway trauma.

    Noting that an ETT ≥ 6.0mm ID will accomodate most intraluminal devices, and in fact at these smaller sizes fibreoptic intubation or passage through an LMA is easier, however smaller tubes are more readily obstructed and deformed.

    Ventilation through smaller ETTs

    While smaller tubes may require slightly higher inspiratory pressures, these are generally not clinically significant with modern ventilators, and importantly do not translate to higher intra-tracheal or alveolar pressures experienced by the patient.

    Similarly, expiratory gas flow is not significantly effected by a small ETT (6.0 mm) for most patients even at high minute ventilations (although use cautiously in patients with chronic airway limitation). Significant gas trapping at normal MV will start to occur with ETT < 5.0 mm.

    Size and airway trauma?

    While the internal diameter (ID) is important for anaesthesia conduct, it is the external diameter that matters for airway trauma (a standard 8.0 mm ID ETT has a 10.5 mm ED!).

    They note while there is wide individual variation in tracheal dimensions, the trachea is narrowest at the subglottis – and thus adequate visualisation of the glottis at time of intubation is an incomplete indicator of the tube size suitability for the subglottis.

    Not only do some adult women have an airway size at the lower-limit of acceptability for traditional 7.0-8.0 mm ETTs, but there is also correlation between ETT size and airway trauma, hoarseness and sore throat. A large ETT can result in mucosal ischaemia and ulceration after as little as 2 hours.

    They conclude...

    "Instead of opting for ‘the largest tube that the larynx will comfortably accommodate’, we perhaps should consider using the smallest tube which permits the safe conduct of anaesthesia."

    For routine anaesthesia of ASA 1 & 2 patients, an ETT sized 6.0-7.0 mm is probably the best balance between ventilation needs and airway trauma.

    Be smart

    But remember, many of the concerns for tracheal tube trauma are based upon critical care experience, not anaesthesia. While a smaller tube is very likely beneficial for most elective adult patients, most benefit will simply be reduction in post-operative sore throat and hoarseness.

    summary
    • S Karmali and P Rose.
    • Department of Anaesthesiology, Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    • Anaesthesia. 2020 May 16.

    AbstractTracheal tubes are routinely used in adults undergoing elective surgery. The size of the tracheal tube, defined by its internal diameter, is often generically selected according to sex, with 7-7.5 mm and 8-8.5 mm tubes recommended in women and men, respectively. Tracheal diameter in adults is highly variable, being narrowest at the subglottis, and is affected by height and sex. The outer diameter of routinely used tracheal tubes may exceed these dimensions, traumatise the airway and increase the risk of postoperative sore throat and hoarseness. These complications disproportionately affect women and may be mitigated by using smaller tracheal tubes (6-6.5 mm). Patient safety concerns about using small tracheal tubes are based on critical care populations undergoing prolonged periods of tracheal intubation and not patients undergoing elective surgery. The internal diameter of the tube corresponds to its clinical utility. Tracheal tubes as small as 6.0 mm will accommodate routinely used intubation aids, suction devices and slim-line fibreoptic bronchoscopes. Positive pressure ventilation may be performed without increasing the risk of ventilator-induced lung injury or air trapping, even when high minute volumes are required. There is also no demonstrable increased risk of aspiration or cuff pressure damage when using smaller tracheal tubes. Small tracheal tubes may not be safe in all patients, such as those with high secretion loads and airflow limitation. A balanced view of risks and benefits should be taken appropriate to the clinical context, to select the smallest tracheal tube that permits safe peri-operative management.© 2020 Association of Anaesthetists.

      Pubmed     Full text   Copy Citation  

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    Notes

    summary
    1

    In this review, Karmali & Rose challenge the dogma surrounding endotracheal tube sizing for adult anaesthesia, traditionally sizing based on sex.

    What did they cover?

    They explored both the functional consequences (good and bad) of ETT size, as well as airway trauma.

    Noting that an ETT ≥ 6.0mm ID will accomodate most intraluminal devices, and in fact at these smaller sizes fibreoptic intubation or passage through an LMA is easier, however smaller tubes are more readily obstructed and deformed.

    Ventilation through smaller ETTs

    While smaller tubes may require slightly higher inspiratory pressures, these are generally not clinically significant with modern ventilators, and importantly do not translate to higher intra-tracheal or alveolar pressures experienced by the patient.

    Similarly, expiratory gas flow is not significantly effected by a small ETT (6.0 mm) for most patients even at high minute ventilations (although use cautiously in patients with chronic airway limitation). Significant gas trapping at normal MV will start to occur with ETT < 5.0 mm.

    Size and airway trauma?

    While the internal diameter (ID) is important for anaesthesia conduct, it is the external diameter that matters for airway trauma (a standard 8.0 mm ID ETT has a 10.5 mm ED!).

    They note while there is wide individual variation in tracheal dimensions, the trachea is narrowest at the subglottis – and thus adequate visualisation of the glottis at time of intubation is an incomplete indicator of the tube size suitability for the subglottis.

    Not only do some adult women have an airway size at the lower-limit of acceptability for traditional 7.0-8.0 mm ETTs, but there is also correlation between ETT size and airway trauma, hoarseness and sore throat. A large ETT can result in mucosal ischaemia and ulceration after as little as 2 hours.

    They conclude...

    "Instead of opting for ‘the largest tube that the larynx will comfortably accommodate’, we perhaps should consider using the smallest tube which permits the safe conduct of anaesthesia."

    For routine anaesthesia of ASA 1 & 2 patients, an ETT sized 6.0-7.0 mm is probably the best balance between ventilation needs and airway trauma.

    Be smart

    But remember, many of the concerns for tracheal tube trauma are based upon critical care experience, not anaesthesia. While a smaller tube is very likely beneficial for most elective adult patients, most benefit will simply be reduction in post-operative sore throat and hoarseness.

    Daniel Jolley  Daniel Jolley
    pearl
    1

    For routine anaesthesia in ASA 1 & 2 patients a 6.0-7.0 mm ETT is probably the best balance between ventilation needs and airway trauma.

    Daniel Jolley  Daniel Jolley
     
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