The Laryngeal Mask Airway and Positive-pressure Ventilation

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The utility of the laryngeal mask airway during positive-pressure ventilation has yet to be determined. Our study was designed to assess whether significant leaks occurred with positive-pressure ventilation and if leaks were associated with gastroesophageal insufflation.


Forty-eight patients undergoing elective surgery were studied. After induction of anesthesia and paralysis, controlled ventilation was used with four different peak pressure settings in each patient (15, 20, 25, and 30 cmH2O). The order of ventilator pressure settings was assigned from a randomized block schedule. Data collected included inspiratory and expiratory volumes, qualitative assessments of gastroesophageal insufflation, and leak at the neck. After data collection during laryngeal mask use, the anesthesiologist intubated the trachea and measurements were repeated for tracheal tube ventilation. Leak was calculated by subtracting the expiratory from the inspiratory volume and expressed as a fraction of the inspiratory volume.


Ventilation with the laryngeal mask airway was adequate at all ventilation pressures and comparable with tracheal tube ventilation. Leak fraction (mean ± SD) at 15, 20, 25, and 30 cmH2O for laryngeal mask ventilation were 0.13 ± 0.15, 0.21 ± 0.18, 0.25 ± 0.16 and 0.27 ± 0.17, respectively, and 0.03 ± 0.03, 0.05 ± 0.03, 0.05 ± 0.03 and 0.04 ± 0.03, respectively, for tracheal tube ventilation. Leak fractions for ventilation with the laryngeal mask were consistently greater than those measured for tracheal tube ventilation at similar ventilation pressures. Leak fraction with laryngeal mask ventilation increased with increasing airway pressures, whereas leak with tracheal tube ventilation remained unchanged. The frequency of gastroesophageal insufflation ranged from 2.1% at a ventilation pressure of 15 cmH2O to 35.4% at 30 cmH2O.


Ventilation using the laryngeal mask appears to be adequate if airway resistance and pulmonary compliance are normal. Gastroesophageal insufflation of air will become a problem in the presence increased ventilation pressure.

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