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The authors have defined the margin of safety in positioning a double-lumen tube as the length of trachcobronchial tree over which it may be moved or positioned without obstructing a conducting airway. The purpose of this study was to measure the margin of safety in positioning three modern double-lumen tubes (Mallinkrodt [Broncho-Cath®], Rusch [Endobronchial tubes], and Sheridan [Broncho-Trach®]). The margin of safety in positioning a: 1) left-sided double-lumen tube (all manufacturers) is the length of the left mainstem bronchus minus the length from the proximal margin of the left cuff to left lumen tip; 2) Mallinkrodt right-sided double-lumen tube is the length of the right mainstem bronchus minus the length of the right cuff; and 3) Rusch right-sided double-lumen tube is the length of the right upper lobe ventilation slot minus the diameter of the right upper lobe. The length of the right and left mainstem bronchi were measured by in vivo fiberoptic bronchoscopy (n = 69), in fresh cadavers (n = 42), and in lung casts (n = 55), and the diameter of the right upper lobe bronchus was measured in lung casts (n = 55). The average ± SD male left and right mainstem bronchial lengths were ± 8 and 19 ± 6 mm, respectively, the average ± SD female left and right mainstem bronchial lengths were 44 ± 7 and 15 ± 5 mm, respectively, the average right upper lobe bronchial diameter was 11 mm, the proximal left cuff to left lumen tip distance was 30 mm, the length of the Mallinkrodt right cuff was 10 mm, and the length of the Rusch right upper lobe ventilation slot was 15 mm. The average margin of safety in positioning left-sided double-lumen tubes ranged 16–19 mm for the different manufacturers. The average margin of safety in positioning Mallinkrodt right-sided double-lumen tubes was 8 mm, and the margin of safety in positioning Rusch right-sided double-lumen tubes ranged 1–4 mm, depending on French size. The authors concluded that left-sided double-lumen tubes are much preferable to right-sided double-lumen tubes because they have a much greater positioning margin of safety, and that proper confirmation of proper position of either a left- or right-sided double-lumen tube should be aided by fiberoptic bronchoscopy, because the absolute distances that constitute the margin of safety are extremely small.