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01.12.2016 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

Critical Care 1/2016

The value of polyurethane-cuffed endotracheal tubes to reduce microaspiration and intubation-related pneumonia: a systematic review of laboratory and clinical studies

Critical Care > Ausgabe 1/2016
Stijn I. Blot, Jordi Rello, Despoina Koulenti
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s13054-016-1380-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
A comment to this article is available at http://​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13054-016-1474-3.



When conventional high-volume, low-pressure cuffs of endotracheal tubes (ETTs) are inflated, channel formation due to folds in the cuff wall can occur. These channels facilitate microaspiration of subglottic secretions, which is the main pathogenic mechanism leading to intubation-related pneumonia. Ultrathin polyurethane (PU)-cuffed ETTs are developed to minimize channel formation in the cuff wall and therefore the risk of microaspiration and respiratory infections.


We systematically reviewed the available literature for laboratory and clinical studies comparing fluid leakage or microaspiration and/or rates of respiratory infections between ETTs with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cuffs and ETTs with PU cuffs.


The literature search revealed nine in vitro experiments, one in vivo (animal) experiment, and five clinical studies. Among the 9 in vitro studies, 10 types of PU-cuffed ETTs were compared with 17 types of PVC-cuffed tubes, accounting for 67 vs. 108 experiments with 36 PU-cuffed tubes and 42 PVC-cuffed tubes, respectively. Among the clinical studies, three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were identified that involved 708 patients. In this review, we provide evidence that PU cuffs protect more efficiently than PVC cuffs against fluid leakage or microaspiration. All studies with leakage and/or microaspiration as the primary outcome demonstrated significantly less leakage (eight in vitro and two clinical studies) or at least a tendency toward more efficient sealing (one in vivo animal experiment). In particular, high-risk patients intubated for shorter periods may benefit from the more effective sealing capacity afforded by PU cuffs. For example, cardiac surgery patients experienced a lower risk of early postoperative pneumonia in one RCT. The evidence that PU-cuffed tubes prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is less robust, probably because microaspiration is postponed rather than eliminated. One RCT demonstrated no difference in VAP risk between patients intubated with either PU-cuffed or PVC-cuffed tubes, and one before-after trial demonstrated a favorable reduction in VAP rates following the introduction of PU-cuffed tubes.


Current evidence can support the use of PU-cuffed ETTs in high-risk surgical patients, while there is only very limited evidence that PU cuffs prevent pneumonia in patients ventilated for prolonged periods.
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