Portable devices used to detect endotracheal intubation during emergency situations: A review

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ObjectivesTo review the operational characteristics of commercial devices used to detect endotracheal intubation; and to identify an ideal device for detecting endotracheal intubation in emergency situations, especially in the prehospital setting during cardiac arrest.Data SourcesRelevant articles from the medical literature are referenced.Study SelectionThe authors identified the need for understanding the basic operation principles of portable devices used to detect endotracheal intubation and to correctly use them in unpredictable clinical situations.Data ExtractionData from published literature.Data SynthesisRecently, a number of new portable devices have been marketed for detecting endotracheal intubation, each having advantages and disadvantages, especially when used during emergency situations. The devices are classified based on their principle of operation. Some rely on CO2 detection (STATCAP, Easy Cap, and Pedi-Cap), others utilize the transmission of light (Trachlight, SURCH-LITE), one operates based on reflection of sound energy (SCOTI), and some depend on aspiration of air (TubeChek and TubeChek-B). A brief description of each device and its operational characteristics are reviewed. A comparative analysis among the devices is made based on size, portability, cost, ease of operation, need for calibration or regular maintenance, reliability for patients with and without cardiac arrest, and the possibility of use for adult and pediatric patients. False-negative and false-positive results for each device are also discussed. False-negative results mean that although the endotracheal tube is in the trachea, the device indicates it is not. False-positive results mean that although the endotracheal tube is in the esophagus, the device indicates it is in the trachea.ConclusionsAlthough no clinical comparative study of commercial devices to detect endotracheal intubation exists, the syringe device (TubeChek) has most of the characteristics necessary for a device to be considered ideal in emergency situations in the prehospital setting. It is simple, inexpensive, easy to handle and operate, disposable, does not require maintenance, gives reliable results for patients with and without cardiac arrest, and can be used for almost all age groups. The device may yield false-negative results, most commonly in the presence of copious secretions and in cases of accidental endobronchial intubation. Regardless of the device used, clinical judgment and direct visualization of the endotracheal tube in the trachea are required to unequivocally confirm proper endotracheal tube placement. (Crit Care Med 1998; 26:957-964)

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