Colorimetric end-tidal carbon dioxide monitoring for tracheal intubation

J S Goldberg, P R Rawle, J L Zehnder, R N Sladen
Anesthesia and Analgesia 1990, 70 (2): 191-4
We evaluated a colorimetric end-tidal carbon dioxide (ETCO2) detector (FEF end-tidal carbon dioxide detector, Fenem, New York, N.Y.) during 62 intubations in anesthetized patients who were hemodynamically stable. The intubations were performed during a drill that simulates difficult tracheal intubation and therefore is associated with an increased risk of esophageal intubation. Each intubation attempt was monitored by two anesthesiologists and a research assistant who together used chest auscultation, colorimetric ETCO2, and capnography to confirm tracheal intubation and detect esophageal intubation. The reliability of the monitors was compared with capnography. Colorimetric ETCO2 confirmed tracheal intubations and detected esophageal intubations 100% of the time, as judged by capnography. There were no false-positive or false-negative decisions based on endotracheal tube position; however, one equivocal color change occurred, which was caused by failure to inflate the endotracheal tube cuff. Colorimetric ETCO2 monitoring confirmed tracheal intubation more rapidly than did chest auscultation (P less than 0.001) or capnography (P less than 0.05), and detected esophageal intubation more rapidly than did chest auscultation (P less than 0.05) and as rapidly as capnography did. Confirmation of tracheal intubation was achieved earlier than detection of esophageal intubation with all three monitors (P less than 0.05). We conclude that colorimetric ETCO2 monitoring is a safe, reliable, rapid, simple, and portable method for determining endotracheal tube position for patients who are hemodynamically stable and should be recommended where capnography is not available.

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