We examined 99 endotracheal tubes removed from 81 pediatric patients to determine the incidence of partial endotracheal tube obstruction and predisposing factors. The overall incidence of obstruction was 20.2% (20/99); 14 of the 20 obstructed tubes were occluded less than 50%. General anesthesia during the period of intubation was the only factor significantly associated with an increased incidence of obstruction (p < 0.05). There was no correlation of obstruction with duration of intubation, the presence of a Murphy-eye side hole, or small tube size. Among the 71 tubes from patients who received general anesthesia, a tube size of 4 mm or less was associated with an increased incidence of obstruction (p < 0.05).
Pressure-flow curves for three different sizes of endotracheal tubes were constructed to determine the increase in resistance produced by different degrees of obstruction. At flow rates that approximated those found in children during quiet breathing, the resistance of tubes that were 50% obstructed was 4 times greater than that found in unobstructed tubes.