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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2011 Oct;40(4):912-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcts.2011.01.070. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Is flexible bronchoscopy necessary to confirm the position of double-lumen tubes before thoracic surgery?

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Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Second University of Naples, Naples, Italy.

Erratum in

  • Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2012 Jun;41(6):1411. Lamanna, Carmine [corrected to La Manna, Carmine].



Flexible bronchoscopy is recommended to confirm correct placement of double-lumen tubes used for thoracic anesthesia. However, there is still controversy over routine bronchoscopic confirmation of their position. This study aimed to verify the usefulness of flexible bronchoscopy for confirming the position of double-lumen tubes after blind intubation.


During a 9-month period, consecutive patients undergoing elective oncologic thoracic surgery were prospectively enrolled in the study. All patients were intubated with a left disposable polyvinyl chloride double-lumen tube. Immediately after intubation, clinical verification was made by the anesthesiologist. Then, the endoscopist performed flexible bronchoscopy with a 2.8-mm diameter Olympus(®) video bronchoscope, and verified the position of the double-lumen tube, before positioning the patient. The double-lumen tube was in optimal position, if the bronchial cuff was immediately below the tracheal carina, and there was a clear view of the left subcarina, with unobstructed left upper and lower bronchi. Misplacement of the double-lumen tube was diagnosed when the tube had to be moved (in or out) for more than 0.5 cm to correct its position. Critical malposition meant a double-lumen tube dislocated in the trachea or in the right bronchi, requiring immediate re-intubation under bronchoscopic guidance.


A total of 144 patients (44 women (42%) and 60 men (58%), with a mean age of 51 years (range 25-77 years)) were enrolled in the study. Surgical procedures included 37 right-sided and 31 left-sided thoracotomies, 22 video-assisted thoracoscopic surgeries (VATSs) (16 right-sided and six left-sided), one median sternotomy, six mediastinotomies, and seven miscellaneous procedures. In 66 (63%, 95% confidence interval 53.2-71.8%) cases, there was complete agreement between the anesthesiologist and the endoscopist. The latter diagnosed misplacement of the double-lumen tube in 33 (32%, 95% confidence interval 22.8-40.7%) patients and critical malposition in five (5%, 95% confidence interval 0.7-8.9%) cases.


After blind intubation, 37% of double-lumen tubes required repositioning by means of flexible bronchoscopy, despite positive evaluation made by the anesthesiologist. Our data suggests that initial bronchoscopic assessment should be made with the patient still in the supine position, and confirms that flexible bronchoscopy is useful in verifying the correct position of double-lumen tubes or adjusting possible misplacements, before starting thoracic surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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