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Br J Anaesth. 2000 Sep;85(3):410-6.

Resistance of laryngeal mask airway and tracheal tube in mechanically ventilated patients.

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Department of Anaesthesiology, University Hospital Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.


We compared the airflow resistance of 7.5 and 8.5 mm internal diameter (i.d.) endotracheal tubes (ETTs) with that of a size 4 laryngeal mask airway (LMA). We thought that any difference in the resistance of the devices alone might be offset by the resistance of the larynx. Sixteen adult ASA physical status I and II patients (14 males, two females) undergoing general anaesthesia were anaesthetized and paralysed with intravenous propofol, ketamine and vecuronium. After insertion of the LMA, controlled ventilation (tidal volume 10 ml kg-1, frequency 12 min-1) was established with three different settings for inspiratory flow (5.5, 7.5 and 12.5 ml kg-1 s-1). Ventilation with the same settings was used after orotracheal intubation with an ETT of i.d. 7.5 mm (females) or 8.5 mm (males). The position of the LMA mask and the tip of the ETT were checked through a fibrescope. The resistance of the devices and, in case of the LMA, of the larynx, was derived by relating proximal and distal pressures (measured via catheters) to inspiratory flow. Four patients--young, tall men--had to be excluded from further study because of a leak around the LMA. In the remaining 10 males and two females, resistance of the LMA (mean (SD) at high flow, 1.19 (0.22) mbar.s litre-1 in males) was less than that of the 8.5 mm i.d. ETT (3.34 (0.52) mbar.s litre-1) (P < 0.01). However, the structures between the LMA and the trachea added another, highly variable, resistance component, so that the mean resistance of the LMA and larynx together was similar (in males: 3.20 (2.71) mbar.s litre-1) to that of the 8.5 mm ETT. In eight patients the epiglottis projected on to one-tenth to two-thirds of the distal opening of the LMA; this was in no case associated with greater resistance. Greater resistance occurred in two patients with a central LMA position and unobstructed view of the glottis and in one patient with marked lateral deviation. In conclusion, there is no clinically relevant difference between the resistance of a size 4 LMA plus that of the larynx and that of an 8.5 mm i.d. ETT.

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